After being pushed back multiple times due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in DuPage County, District 204 schools opened their doors to welcome back their students last Monday. With the change to hybrid learning comes new ways to adapt and learn in order to keep everyone inside the classroom safe and healthy.
With hybrid learning starting, students and staff have to make sure everyone in the building is safe. To do this, proper precautions are set in place.
“We’re asking the parents to self-certify their children at home,” Principal Darrell Echols said. “It’s really the honor system, and we’re just hoping that everybody who is answering those questions is doing it with integrity. The other piece is limiting the number of students. We are making sure that we don’t have more than 16 students in a classroom by splitting the days by alphabetical order. For students, we’re making sure that we’re giving all the high touch areas- desktops railings, all that stuff- gets significantly disinfected after everybody leaves school. So our custodial staff has done a good job of keeping the building clean.”
The first week of hybrid learning was an exciting new chapter for many students and teachers alike. After being remote since September, some staff members felt a number of emotions when welcoming the students back into the building.
“I thought the first week of hybrid went really well,” English teacher Sean McNicholas said. “I was really nervous and had a lot of anxiety going into it because we were finishing finals and [were] also trying to prepare for students coming in the building. But I’m glad that I got to meet a lot of the students who I had in the first semester, and then I was able to meet a lot of new students this semester.”
Some students returning back to school had feelings of excitement, as well as nervousness due to the uncertainties that the first week of school brought.
“I go on the first two days, so we were the first students to be in the building all year really,” Sophomore Evan Hall said. “It was very different from last year, but I was still excited to finally have a feeling of normalcy in my life again. Obviously, I am taking a risk by going to school, so that is kind of nerve-wracking. But, I think if we can do this well, then we can do just about anything.”
Students who decided to stay remote did not experience changes in how the school operated for them. The hybrid schedule the district finalized back in Oct. did not change. However, some students felt that teachers were having a harder time teaching two separate classrooms- the online students, as well as those who are in-person.
“I didn’t go to school, but I definitely think that not all of the teachers have figured out how to teach an in-person and remote class simultaneously,” senior Nickolas Bounds said. “At times, I felt we were either having no energy put into the remote side, or too much focus on remote and not enough for the in-class students, and it was a bit weird the first week. I’m sure as time moves on, though, things will become a lot easier for us and for them.”
Although hybrid learning has its benefits for many, it has also had its complications and challenges to face in the first week. Zoom, in particular, proved troublesome for both students and teachers, especially in the light of Zoom links being transferred to Synergy, or StudentVue, from Google Classroom.
“I think the main challenge is figuring out where [my] attention is going to be as the teacher,” McNicholas said. “Is my attention better spent on the students in the room, or is my attention better spent on students online? I’ve also been in the room when other teachers have had Zoom problems where it’s been lagging and [they] had to restart it. I’ve had some problems with students having trouble finding the link because we transitioned from the link in Google Classroom to Synergy [or StudentVue] as well.”
As hybrid learning continues for the next couple of months, nothing will be completely certain. Keeping students and staff members safe is important to both parties, and the first week was a way to learn and grow from initial mistakes and figure out what works best to keep the schools safe.
“We are so excited about kids being back,” Echols said. “We’re looking forward to more of those opportunities. We’re looking forward to some senior events that we’re going to start working on that we can do safely. We also want to try to look at some things that we can do for the rest of our student body safely. We want to continue to celebrate them coming to school, continue to make sure that we provide a safe learning environment for our students and our staff, and just keep moving in the right direction. So, one day, we have everybody back to the school where they want to be.”