In-Person vs. Virtual Learning
Students Explain the Reasons for their Choice
September 10, 2020
With the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) plan guidelines to reopen schools in July and LISD trustees’ approval of the phase-in on-campus learning TEA waiver, students who chose in-person learning began returning to campus Sept. 8.
During the first phase, Sept. 8-18 for high school campuses, freshmen, students without internet access, and children of faculty will join. In the second phase, Sept. 21-25, seniors and students who receive dyslexia services will be integrated. Juniors will be back on campus during the third phase, Sept. 28- Oct. 2 and all other students who chose in-person learning will be back by Oct. 5.
Making the choice to come back or stay home took a lot of consideration; from the learning environment to extracurriculars and to the protection of family members. Students had to come to a conclusion for the sake of their education.
One of the determining factors students, like sophomore Santiago Martinez, considered when choosing between virtual and in-person learning was the environment. Ultimately, Martinez saw the lack of an adequate learning space in his house too much of a hindrance.
“I chose the in-person classes because I just focus easier in the classroom than I do in my room,” Martinez said. “There’s a lot of distractions here in my room that I wouldn’t get in a classroom.”
Extracurriculars also played a major role in the choice of in-person learning, and for senior color guard captain Zoe Courtade, being in a leadership position made the decision more difficult to make.
“Extracurriculars had a huge impact on my decision,” Courtade said. “I feel an obligation to my team, directors and younger members to help them through these times and be there anyway I can. I want to be back on campus so I can teach my freshmen in person, and get to know all my members more personally. I would be missing out if I chose to do virtual [learning].”
While Martinez was set on in-person learning from the beginning and Courtade eventually felt her dedication to color guard crucial, junior Barbara Sylvester struggled with finalizing the type of learning she wanted to choose.
“At the beginning of the school year, I was not excited [about] virtual school because I am the type of person that does not like change,” Sylvester said. “After all of the technical difficulties died down after the first week [of school], I was starting not to mind virtual school. I do still prefer in-person school much more over virtual though. I prefer to be sitting in a classroom, listening to the teacher at the front of the class explaining the work and being able to just walk up to their desk [to] ask questions.”
With several safety measures implemented in schools, like masks required for all staff and students, constant sanitization, protocol outlined for potential COVID-19 positive students or faculty and a pending self-screening app for students, most students feel safe returning to campus. However, some concerns are still present.
“My only concern is that my mask somehow does not [help prevent COVID-19] and that I may or may not catch it and give it to my parents because they are at risk,” Martinez said. “[I will do] everything I can.”
Sylvester agrees and said that even with the implementation of safety measures coinciding with CDC guidelines, she believes unease will be present among students.
“The school is going to have all of these safety precautions up to help slow and minimize the spread, but I feel like everyone will always just have that fear of ‘What if it does spread and I get it?’ in the back of their minds,” Sylvester said.
Despite concerns and difficulties that will be experienced with a new way of learning, Courtade said she is delighted to return to campus.
“I am honestly so excited to come back to school and be together with my peers again to truly connect and collaborate,” Courtade said. “I believe that this time will only make students more flexible [in their learning] and allow the staff to learn different techniques of teaching.”
In the same way, students who chose in-person learning considered their surrounding environment, virtual learning students also factored their surroundings into their final decision.
“In-person school is essentially what I would do at home, just with substantial infection risk and less comfortable chairs,” senior Travis Weir said. “I decided to do virtual, and my parents agreed with that. My grandfather is at extremely high risk for complications, so anything I can do to reduce risk is worth it.”
The want for normalcy made the decision of choosing virtual learning for junior Jani Jung difficult. She had to not only weigh in her position as one of the captains for the varsity cheer team but also concerns about her health.
“It was really my parents that really influenced me,” Jung said. “In the beginning, I actually really wanted to go because I wanted to socialize, but then my parents were reminding me how it can be dangerous. Everyone wants to go back and get back to ‘normal’ but we can’t have that normal yet and I feel that people have realized that.”
For freshman Aahana Mulchandani, the reality of experiencing high school via Zoom for an undetermined amount of time is still somewhat upsetting despite choosing virtual learning.
“I honestly really want to go back, but I know it isn’t really gonna be like actual school like other students expected,” Mulchandani said. “My parents are against it as well and it’s kind of sad that I can’t make friends or hang out in groups.”
With four weeks of virtual learning under their belt, Weir, Jung and Mulchandani feel that they made the right decision in not choosing in-person.
“I thought [at] the beginning of virtual learning I wasn’t going to do very well because I usually like being in class and having my teachers and classmates around me,” Jung said. “I thought it would be easier but I’m really liking how they are doing virtual school right now, it’s definitely easier and there’s obviously a lot of problems with the internet but I feel that they figure it out well.”