Cal needs to go back to full time learning

To say the first quarter of online learning was a disaster is an understatement. 

While some blame can be put on the quick onset of the coronavirus and school districts’ lack of preparation, there is no denying that computer learning doesn’t work as a whole.  Between students’ mental health, grading assignments, and how to assess knowledge and give feedback, it’s clear that full time learning would be the most beneficial to all parties. 

The most important thing to consider is that of the three options presented at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s June 23 board meeting, full time learning is the most comprehensive and satisfies everyone. 

Full-time learning would still include an option for students to learn remotely, having lectures, assignments, and tests put online. So, in a way, students could personalize their learning. If they want to stay at home, they can with no change to their learning. If they want to attend school any given day, they can. Why ignore those that want, or need, to be in school when opening full time could give everybody what they want?

Marin County, about an hour northwest of San Ramon, plans to fully reopen its schools in the fall. Marin public health official Dr. Matt Willis said in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal that with common sense precautions like frequent hand washing, “We think we can do this safely”.

The reason full time reopening has been so uncommon so far is because people who want to return to school and work have been labeled as selfish, dumb, and illogical. It’s important to acknowledge that there are logical thinking people who simply are willing to risk it, assuming safety measures are in place. 

Plus, how exactly is hybrid learning going to work? So there’s an A and B group. What about theater, newspaper, yearbook, or other classes that require classes to be together in order to collaborate? What if my little sister gets a different attendance block and I can no longer drive us both to and from school? How are parents who are working 9-5 jobs supposed to accommodate for students that need a ride to school at noon?

A large argument for hybrid learning is that it would allow schools to limit class sizes. But in a recent district survey, 34.1 percent of parents indicated they were not ready to send kids to a physical campus. That means that already, classes would be about a third empty even if school started full time, allowing for better precautions like social distancing. 

Additionally, it doesn’t matter how comprehensive the online curriculum is. The bottom line is some students can’t learn through a computer. The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published an article detailing students’ four learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and verbal (visual/discussion hybrid). In addition to most students preferring kinesthetic or a mix of styles, the study stressed that no student learns the same. 

To place over 32,000 different people, ages four to 18, in front of a screen for five hours a day and expect them all to learn, let alone enjoy it, is unrealistic. You can’t have discussions about literature with choppy wi-fi and poor audio quality. 

And, of course, we have to consider the personal side of things. Even the most motivated students found themselves drained and without any desire to log onto Google Classroom for a pass/fail quiz this last quarter. What happens if all on-campus learning next year gets canceled? Good luck getting a class of angry seniors to give maximum effort to online school, especially once it’s no longer essential for college applications or graduation. 

At the end of the day, we don’t go to school for math or science. Most students already say they go to school for friends. We need school to learn how to work with others, discuss new ideas, and figure out who we are and what we want to do with our lives. To think that career paths can be forged through online, impersonal, basic common core learning is ludicrous. 

Additionally, on-site resources like counseling, school lunches and tutoring are key to helping a school function as a whole. How do students get letters of recommendation for college from teachers they never got to know because they only ever saw them with their camera off and mute button on?

It needs to be stressed that full-time learning isn’t forcing anyone to go to school on campus. Anyone who believes it’s not worth the risk has a simple solution – don’t go and take advantage of the remote learning option. Or attend one or two classes in person and the rest remotely if that feels safer. The only difference with the full time option is that it includes everyone, and doesn’t ignore those that want to be in school.

School is the essential institution, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to reopen them for those students who will go. The district must return to educating students normally and allow individual families to make their own choice. 

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