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Schools balance online and in-person lessons

Environmental science teacher Jill Thompson balances between online and in-person students at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas. (Katrina Machetta/YJI)

Spring, Texas, U.S.A. – With covid-19 still lingering after a year, students in Texas have continued learning on a virtual platform and hybrid arrangement.

At the start of the school year, many districts, including Klein Independent School District, Houston Independent School District, and Alief Independent School District, gave students the option of in-person, online, or hybrid learning, depending on the number of virus cases in the region and the resources of the school.

Popular online U.S. platforms include Zoom and Google Meets, which have replaced in-person learning and extra-curriculars due to health concerns.

But viewpoints on a year of online learning have been split.

Online learning has been convenient for some, allowing students to be in a comfortable location, absent the noise of a typical classroom. And it is geographically flexible, since classes can attend from anywhere with a wi-fi connection.

However, online learning brings challenges such as technological limitations in underserved communities in Texas.

“Technology played a significant role in our education this year, especially for online students,” said high school junior Anabella Gramling of Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas. “In previous years, we have used technology in school, but this year we relied on it more to make sure that everyone gets the information they need to be successful in school.”

With this new technical knowledge inhabiting a virtual environment, there come inevitable tradeoffs, such as the loss of face-to-face peer interactions and the loss of simple pleasures in life that were taken for granted, like a hug to show love or a high five for joy.

“Covid-19 has made me more grateful for when we could attend classes and interact with the teachers more,” said high school senior Fatima Assi, also of Klein Collins. “The district is doing the right thing to enforce masks, social distancing, and allowing online classes.”

An average school day is eight hours, so students have to be willing to stare at a screen for that long, not including time with clubs or community meetings.

While these disadvantages have propelled some to switch to in-person classes after participating in online learning, the online option has continued to be a popular choice, especially for students with older loved ones or with pre-existing health concerns.

“Online learning has been incredibly difficult because it has affected two main things,” said English teacher Lisette Hewitt, who teaches at Klein Collins. “It has limited the types of assignments or activities I can give to students. Also, my classroom is normally full of chatter and movement, but this year has changed that so much because we are all behind screens.”

Students, teachers and administrators all view online learning differently and school districts around Texas have been discussing multiple options for next year.

While most schools are adamant about all in-person learning, some schools offer an alternative virtual option providing a completely separate virtual school within the school district.

Katrina Machetta is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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