In Person vs Virtual School


Katelynn Hexamer

Hallways, all students have masks on and walk in one direction.

Sophia Dewael, MVcurrent Writier

Throughout the state, different schools have different plans about how to handle the 2020-2021 school year. Some schools are all virtual while some are all in person. Mt. Vernon has opted to employ a hybrid system. This is only being employed in the high school at this point since it has the greatest potential for spreading COVID-19 due to the larger number of students that attend. MVHS administrators are also allowing students to attend school completely virtual if they request it. 


Mr. Dodd, the principle of Mt. Vernon High School explained the steps the administrators went through to get to this decision:  “As we approached the start of the school year, the safety of all our students was our number one priority.  We have nearly 1400 students in our school and with us switching classes four times per day, we understood that contact tracing if we were to have anyone test positive for COVID-19 could be extremely challenging.  This led us to explore options that might allow us to increase the amount of space between students in our classrooms, and we began researching the hybrid schedule.  We also spoke with some other schools in the area that were either using the hybrid schedule or were considering it. After gathering all that information, we decided that starting the year on a hybrid schedule was our best option.”


The hybrid system splits the students in half by alphabetical order and the groups each come in on seperate days. The schedule then alternates so one group will go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while the other group goes Tuesday and Thursday. The following week they flip so that the first group goes Tuesday and Thursday and the second group goes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The days that students are virtual, they learn the same material being presented in the physical classroom. Before school started in August, the corporation distributed a survey to the parents on whether they preferred a hybrid to a full in person weekly schedule, and a higher percentage responded in favor of a hybrid schedule.


Although parents responded positively to the survey, no one had tried this schedule before, so teachers and students went into the situation blind. It has now been six weeks, and people have formed opinions about both hybrid and virtual education. Some students that started in the hybrid schedule have now gone fully virtual, but both virtual and hybrid have different benefits and flaws.


Starting with the hybrid schedule, the biggest benefit for most students is actually being there in person for part of the time. This allows them to see their friends, albeit most likely not all of them because less than half of the student population is there at one time. A benefit of this schedule is that students may find it easier to learn since they get to be in class with their teachers and it is closer to the normal school day they have gotten used to in previous years of school.


“I like that I can see people and see the board. It is also just easier to learn when you’re in person,” admitted Molly Reece, 11.


Although, there are also several negatives to this format of schooling. Health concerns or any kind of contact poses a risk for the spread of COVID-19. Even though the school is trying to make coming back to school feel normal, there are still many safety procedures that need to be in place which affects students interacting with each other.


Although hybrid scheduling was seemingly the best option, it is still not the normal that high school students are used to. Many of them miss seeing their friends that go to school on the opposite days as them.


“I don’t like how we only see people from a specific group, I wish we were able to see people from all letters of the alphabet,” said Lydia Helm, 11.


On the other hand, there are students facing the ups and downs of fully virtual learning. The biggest benefit that students see is being in control of their daily schedule. They are able to do their work with more flexibility, though some still have to do it during the class period. One way the teachers keep in touch with their virtual students is by setting up Zoom calls or Google Meets meetings. The virtual learning also lets them work at their own pace since they don’t have to wait for the bell to ring and teachers often post the work ahead of time.


“It gives me time to do it at my own pace, whether that is faster or slower,” said Tara Callahan, 11, a virtual student.


The all virtual schedule is new so it is not flawless, especially since teachers are having to balance teaching both in person and online students. This means that they sometimes do not have time to post the material for the day until after the class period, which makes it hard for the students at home. Another thing that virtual students are noticing is that they do not have as many chances to socialize as those going in person. The style of learning is different so the students have to motivate themselves and are given a lot more responsibility when at home. Learning virtually also may affect the quality and quantity of the learning since it is new to everyone and is harder for some people.


“I feel like I’m not learning as much as I used to, just doing busy work all the time,” said Sarah Hall, 11.


Some students have already decided to change from the hybrid schedule to going virtually. There are different reasons such as safety and convenience that students have decided to make this change. To do this the parent or guardian of the child simply needs to call into the school and let them know that they will be going virtual. The biggest downside to doing this is that the school asks that the student continues to go virtually until at least the end of the semester, so the family should put thought into the decision before calling the school.


Olivia Herald, 12, explained, “I only had one other class besides ICE and I also play soccer. So I was driving to school for one class, driving to work, then driving back for soccer. It was a lot of back and forth for no reason, so I decided to go virtual.”


Due to the risk of spreading COVID-19, school will be more challenging this year, but teachers and students are constantly learning what works better for them. Mt. Vernon is trying to let students and parents decide what will work best for their families.