Students, staff react to hybrid return

Jilian Denlow and Sydney Hletko

August 17, the first day of the 2020-21 school year, was not the start anyone would’ve hoped for. A few weeks of online learning quickly turned into months, and now, as May approaches, ETHS has finally decided to take the next step, allowing students and staff to break routine and enter the building after many months of learning and teaching behind a computer screen. 

The framework for hybrid allows students who opt into in-person learning to attend four half days of school every other week following a rotating block schedule, which has been divided alphabetically. The school is currently operating at about 25 percent capacity, but the amount of students in each class varies.

While this model ensures that students who are learning remotely have the same access to instruction by the teacher as students who are in-person, many students who have opted into in-person learning share that this decision was a no-brainer. The ability to build stronger connections with both classmates and teachers is an opportunity many aren’t willing to pass up.

Although students that have chosen to opt into in-person learning have only had one or two sessions in the building so far, many have already gotten a good grasp on what the in-person experience is like.

Freshman Orlagh Reardon shared the details of her return. “In my classes, there were fewer desks because not many students were coming in at one time. The desks were spread roughly six feet apart from each other and there was Plexiglass in front of my teachers’ desks, dividing them from the students” Reardon says. “Between my classes, the hallways were not at all crowded. There were a good number of students walking from class to class, but I could easily walk without having to worry about getting too close to another student.” 

Freshman Kaia Cmarko explained that there were arrows and cones in the hallways to direct traffic, along with one-way staircases to help ensure that plenty of distance was maintained between students.

ETHS is confident that the transition to the hybrid model will come with a number of precautions, benefitting both students and staff.

Freshman Caroline Streicker hopes to gain a better sense of the school in preparation for next year and improve the connections with her teachers and peers. Sophomore Maddy Pollard entered the school on her first day back with similar hopes. However, after experiencing each of her classes in-person, she was disappointed with the lack of increased social interaction. 

That said, Maddy Pollard believes that this pathway to normalcy is exactly what she needs. As of right now, Maddy is planning to continue going in-person when she is scheduled to. 

After becoming so used to attending classes virtually and from home, the shift to hybrid sparked a variety of concerns.

“I honestly had no clue what to expect, so I was kind of worried about the unknown of everything. However once I got in the building things went really smoothly,” says junior Tatum Norris.

In addition to the unknown, many freshmen experienced further worries involving the size of the building and how they planned to navigate the halls when moving from one class to another. 

My main worry for hybrid was getting lost or being late to one of my classes. I handled this by doing the “Walk Your Schedule” in-person activity. I was able to get a better grasp of my schedule and the building,” Orlagh shares. “Another thing that helped me was my teachers reminding me that it’s okay to get lost during my first couple of days. They reminded us that it’s a big building and can be difficult to navigate at first.” 

For freshmen who did not sign up for the “Walk Your Schedule” activity, the signs within the school were a great help. “The middle school I went to didn’t have huge signs, only room numbers, so I thought it was going to be much harder to find my classes, but it was actually really easy,” Cmarko says.

“After being in the building, I didn’t see much of a difference in terms of social interaction, but I was significantly more focused in each of my classes, so I am confident that my decision to opt into in-person will help me academically,” Streicker explains.

The majority of students shared that they experienced the same amount of coursework in-person as they did virtually. That being said, students have enjoyed the opportunity to talk to their teachers and classmates if the class calls end before the period is over.

Overall, the hybrid model has succeeded many students’ expectations. Being given the chance to slowly ease back into the swing of things has allowed Tatum Norris a sense of comfort. 

“So far I have really enjoyed being hybrid, it is also a good transition from complete e-learning to hybrid,” she says. “I have really enjoyed going back to school and meeting my classmates and teachers.”