In-person students share their thoughts about returning to the building

Charlotte Guy

Freshman Felix Geffen’s first-day at Wilson was nothing close to what he had envisioned. Instead of jam-packed hallways and bustling stairwells he was met with a different reality: one teacher and one classmate sitting six feet apart. Though this was starkly different from his imagination, his first experience at Wilson was not a bad one.

On February 2, around 200 students chose to return in-person once a week. Although an overwhelming amount of Wilson students decided to remain virtual, this small fraction of the student body has found their experience in school to be very rewarding.

Many of the students that decided to return to the school building feel as though the quality of their education had deteriorated since the transition to online learning.

“I decided to go in-person because I actually have a lot of learning disabilities and online school has been incredibly challenging,” said junior Lillie Jackson-Jones.

Currently, she goes into Wilson every Friday with history teacher Matthew Burgoyne and despite only having been to a couple of classes, she has already noticed an improvement in her learning. “It’s been a pretty good experience for me and I’ve been able to get a lot more one-on-one help than I would have if I was online.” 

Junior Kenadi Burnett also values the extra time and attention she is able to get from hybrid learning. She is going back Thursdays for AP Chemistry, a class that she feels particularly benefits from the hands-on teaching. 

“Doing labs in person is much, much different from online labs, which I’ve never really learned anything from. So, it’s much better so far,” Burnett explained.

Like countless other students, she struggles with maintaining attention in school, something that has only been exacerbated by online learning. However, when Burnett is in-person, she finds it easier to focus and can get one-on-one help from her teacher.

Geffen has been having trouble with the online school as well and the idea of being able to actually interact with his teachers compelled him to return. “I think that [in-person learning] has helped me because I’ve been able to connect more with my teacher,” he said. “I feel as though I’m actually being taught whereas online, it’s kind of hard to really get that full, teacher and student bond that I think happens in school.”

Geffen considers himself to be very social, so although he only has one other in-person classmate, he values the relative sense of community being in school provides.

Sophomore Radha Tanner, who also values the social aspect of school, decided to return as she knew a peer who would also be in person.

“It really helps me that I have a friend in my class who also comes back with me because I’m not just like alone sitting in silence. I can still talk to him and it’s fun,” she said. “Instead of logging into my computer and going to a breakout room, I can just turn around and talk to the people in my group, which is nice.” 

After school, Tanner even went to Wawa and sat at Fort Reno, activities that were once mundane but now seem like an indulgence. 

However, Tanner has already lost familiarity with the school building, sometimes finding herself forgetting which floor she is on. For freshmen like Geffen, this is their first time ever setting foot in the building and it is only a small taste of what being a highschooler is really like.

Despite the irregularity of hybrid learning, it can provide a much-needed routine for some. Even once a week just having to get up and get ready creates some structure to the indistinguishable weeks. 

“It was getting hard for me to get out of bed and go do something like on a regular school day, so just having Thursdays come I know for sure that I need to get up and get out the house. So it’s definitely been good for my mental health,” said Burnett.

In-person learning also provides vital social interaction that students have been missing since March. “Going back in person helps a lot because it’s just kind of it’s a change of scenery,” Tanner said, “you get excited to like see other people, even people who aren’t your friends.” 

For many, these social, mental, and academic benefits outweigh the potential safety risks of attending in-person school. This is due in large part to the consensus that the safety protocols put in place are more than adequate. 

Temperature checks, social distancing, HEPA filters, and masks are enough to abate concerns about contracting and spreading COVID-19 for many students, including Geffen and Tanner. 

However, not everyone is confident in these precautions. Given the scarcity of people in the building, Jackson-Jones currently is not too concerned with the safety risks, but as attendance grows, she is worried that the risks will as well. 

“It’s just me and two other students and then the teacher in the classroom and we’re all socially distanced and we all have masks on, but if the number of students start to increase that would kind of make my anxiety and stress about the safety kind of increase,” said Jackson-Jones.

Junior Tess Breeden was planning to go back to the same class as Jackson-Jones, but realized she was too anxious about potential exposure to COVID-19 so opted out of returning.

 Breeden explained that since March, she has been mostly isolated so wanted to attend in-person school for the social aspect. However, Breeden concluded that given all of the safety precautions she wouldn’t go in.

 “Human contact was really the only reason I would have gone in, but it’s not really a welcoming environment you know, with all the COVID restrictions. You can’t really see people’s facial expressions and you’re still on the computer.” 

Breeden is just one of the many Wilson students who has decided, “it wasn’t even that much of a difference. Why bother?”