PRO/CON: Is it worth returning to virtual learning?

PRO — remote learning prioritizes students’ health

Senior+Carter+Honsinger+enjoyed+the+freedoms+of+online+school+last+year+when+Cal+High+had+virtual+learning+from+home.

The Californian file photo by Ben Olson

Senior Carter Honsinger enjoyed the freedoms of online school last year when Cal High had virtual learning from home.

Tanvi Pandya, Staff Writer

With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, it’s safe to say that the new Omicron variant is taking the world by storm as we have never experienced before.

The average number of cases had been going up every day until recently, reaching all-time highs for the state of California and the United States as a whole, according to the The New York Times.

So the question is this: Why are we still going to school in person when we are exposed to thousands of people on campus every day?

With the current infectious atmosphere, in-person school is a danger to us all, and the longer we stay in person, the worse our situation gets.

Cal High, along with many other schools in Contra Costa County, are dealing with more severe consequences every day. 

Since Jan. 11, the same day San Ramon Valley Unified School District campuses opened for the second semester, the  number of cases per day in California peaked at over 136,000 according to a state government dashboard, which is astronomical figure especially when compared to the daily average before Jan. 1, which often didn’t even reach 10,000. Fortunately though, cases in California have declined, reaching 13,624 on Jan. 30.

For a frame of reference, when we started online school in March 2020, the average number of daily cases was below 50 in California. 

According to an email sent by administrators on Jan. 18, Cal had 17 positive cases reported in one day. And that number only includes the people who happened to test for COVID and report it.

There are a countless number of people who may have been positive on campus but not tested, or been asymptomatic, and spread it to others.

With such a clear issue with an outbreak in cases, why are we still attending school in person? 

The most reasonable solution, at least for the time being, is to return to online learning to help eliminate the spread of COVID in schools. 

At a minimum, the district should offer hybrid learning, which would allow students to maintain the social aspect of school while simultaneously limiting the amount of students on campus at a time. 

With hybrid, we could try a similar approach to the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, where half the student body attends in person school for half the week and the rest of the students for the other half. It works as a less reclusive, social distance-friendly alternative until we see the current drop in cases is not a fluke.

If we look at the progression of the Omicron variant logically, even after the first case was found in California on Dec. 1, we kept the number of cases relatively low until schools reopened in January.

Even now, we always see a drop in cases on weekends compared to weekdays. Even without going into a fully quarantined situation, not going to school in person would make a huge difference.

And it’s not like Cal would be the only school to do this. Many school districts switched to remote learning for a few weeks in an effort to slow down the rise of cases, including Cincinnati Public Schools and Great Falls Public Schools.

It’s understandable that the school may not want to go online right now, even for a short period of time, considering the last time we went online, we didn’t return in person for a year and a half.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy online school either. I found it draining and difficult to focus in such an isolated environment.

It can be hard to focus while at home, and students are expected to continue concentrating and working without having any of the pros of school, such as socializing and getting out of the house, to motivate them. 

But it is clearly what is best for the state of our county at the moment, and maybe the only thing that could help contain the Omicron variant. 

The bottom line is that the health and safety of students and staff should always remain the priority, and that isn’t a possibility unless we shut schools or return to hybrid learning.

Opinion columns reflect the view of the staff writer.