Students Voice Concerns with Back-to-School Plan

By Caris Mann, ’22

Staff Writer

On February 1st, the Hanover School Committee announced that high school students will be returning to school in person for four days a week starting March 8th. Grades K-2 were the first to make this transition, and other grades will resume between Feb. 22 and March 1. New guidelines such as desks being placed three feet apart, instead of six feet, and weekly pool testing of students will be implemented in order to accommodate the plan. The transition may require some students’ schedules to be changed to ensure there are no classes that are too large for their classroom. There are also new guidelines regarding Zoom, where teachers will no longer be required to livestream their classes for any students at home. This means students who are quarantined or have COVID will not be able to virtually attend; instead, teachers will post or send home assignments for students to complete on their own. 

Students who don’t want to return can opt into the Virtual Academy, the high school’s fully remote program. In that program, students take all of their classes through online platforms, with HHS teachers facilitating the program. The School Committee asked that parents make this decision by February 5.

In a statement released Feb. 1, School Committee Chair Leah Miller said this plan allows for “students to resume as much academic normalcy as possible in a safe environment.” The plan will be implemented safely with the help “of the collaborative support of our teachers and families along with our school health, public health, and public safety departments,” the statement continued. 

Students at HHS have formulated their own opinions about the School Committee’s decision. In a survey, The Hawk asked whether or not students wanted to return full time, if they had any concerns, and if they had any other thoughts about the plan. Most of the respondents said they do not feel comfortable returning to school full time because of the reduced social distancing and lack of Zooms for quarantining students. However, the students seemed the most upset about the fact that they were not asked their opinions about returning back. 

Do you agree or disagree with the plan, and why?

“I agree with the plan because I think kids need to get back to school for their mental health and for their education.”- Ashley Stracco, ‘24

“I disagree because the coronavirus is getting worse and by letting us go back all four days, there will be no social distancing and even more quarantines. The chances of getting COVID from being in school will also increase.”- Anonymous, ‘23

“With the corona numbers higher, I don’t think that we should go back full time.”- Jay Champagne, ‘23

“I strongly disagree with the plan to reopen on the current day chosen. I disagree because changing the schedule again will do nothing other than cause more stress, anxiety and confusion to the students and teachers.”- Anonymous, ’22

“I don’t agree with it. While I believe we should go back at some point, the carrying out of the plan doesn’t seem well thought out at all, especially because there won’t even be an option for Zooms. Kids don’t social distance outside of school, so that just means more kids who could’ve been exposed are in the building at the same time and even closer together than six feet.”- Julia McGillivray, ‘22

“I personally strongly dislike this plan. I think that largely it was pushed forward by parents who are not in school and don’t understand the students’ concern. I want so badly to go back to school and to return to some bit of normalcy, but now is just not the time. Case numbers are extremely high and sending us back after February break and after everyone has traveled and gotten together is just poor timing. I really don’t think it’s a good idea.”- Callia Gilligan, ‘22

“No, I don’t agree at all, it was way too early to go back to school. We still have many cases in Hanover and many people are constantly quarantining. Teachers not providing zooms will also be a big problem because that will put kids weeks behind everyone else and just create a lot of stress. Also when we are in school during this hybrid model, we can’t even properly social distance six feet, but now with everyone back, we won’t be able to social distance at all. We will be mere centimeters away from other people. The CDC and medical professionals are still recommending everyone stay six to ten feet apart, but now there’s no way we can do that, especially during situations like lunch.” – Andrew Corbo,’22

“I was kind of surprised to hear that we are returning to fully in-person school. I think it will be beneficial to return to some normalcy. However, I think there are still many questions that students have about the new plan.”- Paige Dillis, ‘22

“I don’t think the plan to go back four days a week on March 8th is safe at all. Coupled with getting rid of the zoom option, it’s not fair to students. Our classes are already as full as they can be. … Band, and probably chorus as well, wouldn’t be able to have classes either. The regulations for music classes are much different than normal classes because we can’t wear proper masks while playing an instrument. We already rehearse in the auditorium and to be able to space everyone out ten feet apart and fitting up to 30-35 students in there, is a stretch. Trying to fit 65 students in there isn’t safe at all. It’s either one cohort wouldn’t be able to play for a day while the other cohort does, or the entire music department would have to wait until the spring, when there isn’t snow on the ground, to rehearse outside as a full ensemble. It’s not fair to the entire music department that because the district wants to be the first in the state to try this out, that it comes at the expense of the classes that are the only reason that some students even want to go to school anymore.”- Anonymous, ’22

“I can see why people are upset but I also think it’s a good idea to try to go back because we can’t be at home forever and we need to eventually go back and one school needs to be the first to find out if this is a possibility, so why not give it a try?”- Joseph Campo, ‘22

“I do not agree with the plan. Although it’s a nice idea in theory to go back to fully in person school, now is just not the time. Walking through the hallways, a majority of students I have talked to are all quite upset with the news for a variety of reasons. One that stands out to me is that the largest group of people in the school (the students) weren’t asked about whether or not they would feel safe going back now. Also, schedules at the school were not made for fully in-person schooling. I along with my friends, have classes that are already close to max capacity and with the addition of students from the other cohort we won’t be able to fit, let alone stay socially distanced.”- Christopher Manning, ‘22

“I don’t really agree with it for a few reasons. One is we are the town with the third most cases in Massachusetts and there are only three months left of school, so why change it?”- Anonymous, ‘22

“I would like to go back because high school isn’t just about learning, but it’s also a social outlet, and we’re missing that outlet by not being there as much as possible.”- Mike Losordo, ‘22

“Back in November, I wrote a very long email about coming back to school to our superintendent and principal of HHS. For context, from October to November my entire family tested positive for COVID-19, all except for me. During their quarantine, they were bedridden and very sick but thankfully recovered well and are okay now. Since I had tested negative multiple times, I had to quarantine another 10 days after my last exposure. My total quarantine was 24 days. This was weeks of not being in school, weeks without going to work, and weeks without leaving my room. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.  People who know me know that school is my second home. It’s where I’ve developed into my own person and found success even in the hardest times of my life. People who know me know that I, probably more than anyone, want to be at school full time again. I miss normalcy, I miss my friends and teachers. I miss the resources at our school. . . . Most of all, I miss feeling successful and accomplished and organized. However, I would give this all up, I have been giving this up, for the safety of everyone. I would rather struggle, and go through the trials and errors of remote life, which I’ve found very difficult, than potentially put the livelihood of our students and staff at risk. With the emergence of the vaccine we could be so close now to beginning the journey of healing this country, and expelling COVID-19.”- Anonymous, ‘22

“My thoughts on this is that the return back to school is being rushed. I feel like we need to wait until the vaccine goes to the teachers. I also wish that the school committee turned to the CDC guidelines that explicitly state that we need to be six feet apart.”- Anonymous, ‘22 

What are your concerns about the plan?

“My concerns are the classrooms are already filling up with one cohort. I feel that there will be too many people in a classroom at a time.”- Jay Champagne, ‘23

“No option for Zooms makes it so kids will either come to school sick because they don’t want to miss classes or kids in AP or Honors classes would miss two entire weeks of school and be expected to catch up.”- Julia McGillivray, ‘22

“My biggest concern logistically is how everyone is going to fit in the school. Hallways, classes and lunches are already full and I don’t know how some of my classes are going to fit, even at a distancing of three feet. In addition, I’m concerned about how teachers will not be required to Zoom with quarantined students. I had a concussion at the beginning of the year and missed around four days of classes and it took me about a month to catch up on all my outstanding work and learn the material I had missed in lessons. If a student is quarantined, through no fault of their own, I find it really unfair that they will be expected to teach themselves and won’t have access to lessons.”- Callia Gilligan, ‘22

“Yes, the classrooms are very small, about the size of my basement/living room, and some of my classes have up to 30 kids. It’s a terrible idea to bring all these kids back, it will cause a lot more stress and it just will not go well. “- Andrew Corbo, ‘22 

“I think one of the questions would be about how all of the students will fit in the classes while still maintaining proper social distancing. The majority of my classes are very large, so I am just curious how the guidelines will be with so many people. I think another concern would be about how students will continue to learn if they have to quarantine. Since there will be no more Zooms during the school day, I think it will be even more difficult to stay caught up in a class if a student had to quarantine.”-Paige Dillis, ‘22

“I’m concerned for the safety of our teachers, students, and staff. I already don’t feel that safe in school under the actual regulations and precautions that we’ve taken, so I know that most students, and all teachers, will not feel safe or at all comfortable with this plan. We would have to break regulations to physically fit every student in each classroom, and I know that goes directly against the Board of Health’s advice and regulations. If the district’s, specifically the school committee’s, method to having us all go back “safely” four days a week is to break regulations and go directly against the advice of actual professionals and doctors, then they clearly do not have our safety or our best interests in mind. I don’t feel comfortable putting my entire family, many of them who have health problems, at risk.” – Anonymous, ‘22

“How are lunches going to work and what about classes that have a large amount of people in them?”- Joseph Campo, ‘22

“My only concern is that the school committee is just rushing into this to look good to groups of parents who don’t want their kids to be at home anymore during the school day instead of actually thinking about the people who would be going to school in this new environment.”- Christopher Manning, ‘22

“I feel as though people are only saying they don’t agree with going back four days because they just don’t want to and not because they think it would be best to be there only two days. I think once we go back four days, people will become accustomed to it, as they already did with a two day schedule.”- Mike Losordo, ‘22

“I have quite a few concerns as to what is going to happen with the classes that are already large in size and now have to combine with the other cohort because I would not like to be taken out of my class in the middle of the year but I think that is something that they just might have to do. Also, it is really concerning that teachers will no longer hold Zooms because if we are going back, more cases are going to be inevitable but, those students will have to catch up on work after the fact rather than attending classes virtually.”- Anonymous, ‘22

“My main concerns are falling behind due to no more Zooms, having to quarantine more often, the lack of social distancing, and the higher possibility of contracting the virus. As with the Virtual Academy, I’m concerned about the level of education, learning the new programs if I do switch over, if I will still get honors and AP credit for courses I’m already taking, if I’ll be learning things that I’ve already learned, and missing out on things due to a different curriculum.”- Anonymous, ‘22

Is there anything else that you would like to say?

“If this plan was thought out better and I felt safe, I would have agreed with it.”- Julia McGillivray, ‘22

“I appreciate the sentiment of the school but this feels rushed  and now just doesn’t feel like the right time.”- Callia Gilligan, ‘22

“The only reason we are going back so fast is because of the politics of it all. If the school committee actually cared, they would seriously consider the input of students and teachers who are actually in the schools and will be the most affected by it. But the school committee only cares about pleasing the parents because they are the largest voting block in Hanover and they want to help their reelection chances.”- Andrew Corbo, ‘22

“I think we are all trying to be optimistic about this plan, but I think we all still have a lot of questions about it too.”- Paige Dillis, ‘22

“I think that since students in other Hanover schools have already had success with going back four days, then every other school should be more than able to pull it off; especially since the high school holds students that are both physically and emotionally capable of protecting themselves during this time.”- Mike Losordo, ‘22

For more information about the new plan, please click the link below:

https://www.hanoverschools.org/district/news/return-school-plans-february-1-2021

 

 

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