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Student Voices: Preparing for the return of in-person classes

Just over a year ago, the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, along with most every other school district in the world, turned to remote learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, we’re starting to see a glimmer of hope that students might head back to classrooms, given the district’s plan to return April 19 in a hybrid learning model.

In this model, students will return twice a week for half-days of in-person learning, keeping the same schedule each week, and take their remaining classes over Zoom.

While some may be upset that this model includes only three to four in-person classes per week, I think it’s just the right amount to adjust, given that most students haven’t been in a classroom in more than a year.

I hardly remember what in-person school was like, and it will likely be a shock to return after so long. We’ll no longer have the convenience to walk across the room to attend school, and make tea or coffee during breaks.

There are a few aspects of distance learning that are obviously less than ideal. I miss real collaboration, as Zoom breakout rooms are disordered and awkward. I crave the accountability that comes with in-person school, as it’s so easy to get distracted on your computer or phone at home.

I’m so happy to be returning, but the move back to in-person learning after so long will be challenging, and schools should put in measures to assist students in the transition.

Over the past year, we’ve been exposed to some great tools as a result of distance learning, one being virtual office hours. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays), we have 75-minute blocks during which we can visit teachers via Zoom and make up assignments, ask questions and do extra practice lessons.
Even after distance learning, we should keep after-school office hours, and they should remain virtual. With in-person school, we’d have to make an appointment with a teacher during lunch or after school, which was an inconvenience. These 75-minute virtual office hours are more useful for teachers and students.

Additionally, we should keep Wednesdays asynchronous, which the district intends to do at least for the rest of this year. I’ve heard from teachers that asynchronous Wednesdays provide needed lesson-planning time, and I know from my own experience that it’s a needed break from constant stimulation and Zoom fatigue.

Finally, and more generally, we should normalize the more self-directed approach to our education. For those of us who are juniors and seniors preparing for college, distance learning has allowed us to look at independent learning in a different way.

During distance learning, we’ve had longer assignments but more time to complete them, which means it’s up to us how we structure our time. We’ve been able to take notes in a way that works for us, and pursue extracurricular activities we would’ve never had the chance to try otherwise.

So while I’m nervous to return to school, take in-person tests and pay attention for long periods of time again, I feel ready. I can’t wait to meet my teachers, most of whom I’ve never seen in person, and talk with classmates I haven’t seen since last year.

It will be a tough adjustment – but so was distance learning. At least this time we have some warning and a plan, one that factors in the needs of students and teachers, and prepares us for a full return next school year.

Nina Crofts is a Los Altos High School junior and Town Crier intern.

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