Many Washington schools have already transitioned to a hybrid model this year, meaning some students attend school online, and some in person. Some people have been skeptical about schools returning in person. Being inside with a large group of people, like there would be in a classroom, could increase the risk of spreading COVID. Many of the adult population in Washington is still yet to be vaccinated. There has been concern for high risk teachers, or students bringing COVID to people that they live with, but hopefully by the time a majority of schools go back in person in April, these people will all be fully vaccinated.
On March 2nd, Washington state teachers were put on the priority list for getting a Covid vaccine. Most of the teachers I have talked to have had pretty similar experiences on deciding to go back in person. The biggest factor for many of these teachers is the vaccine. They are all on the list for getting vaccinated or already are. It makes the decision to go back in person much easier for them. Another thing some teachers are having a hard time getting sorted out is child care. It is already hard enough to have to care for a child while teaching online, but it’s even harder to do that if they are back in person. Because of COVID, a lot of daycares or caretakers are unavailable, which makes it impossible to go back to school for the teachers that are also parents of young children.
But how are students making the decision to go back in person? There are so many differences in students’ lives that make this decision harder on them. Many are not eligible to get the vaccine until they turn 16 or even 18. A lot of students also live with high risk people in their household. This decision is very complex, not only does safety play a role, but so does quality of learning and mental health. Students everywhere have suffered from mental health issues at a much higher rate during COVID and online school. A lot of kids will go back, but some who are having a hard time with online school don’t have that option. And their mental health could get even worse seeing their peers together but not being able to be with them in person. The quality of learning may also be different online than in person. It seems that teachers who are in person will automatically pay more attention to the students in front of them, but hopefully online students can get the same out of class that in person people can.
Teachers and kids will all face inequities during the hybrid process. From what I have experienced, it’s hard to learn in person while your teacher is online, while it’s also difficult the other way around—for the teachers to teach online while their students are in person. I have also heard it is hard for students that are online to stay engaged and learn well while the rest of their class and teachers are in person. They are unable to hear a lot of the talking that’s going on and the teachers might have the tendency to be less engaged with them. As well as students missing out on the social aspect of in person learning. The teachers I talked to expressed how they are going to try to be as inclusive with the students as possible, but have also said it will be a serious challenge.