By Bridget Galibois, Copy Editor
On April 19, 2021, the first shift of in-person learners returned to the school building after over a year of fully remote learning. However, while both shifts of in-person learners have been able to walk around the building and see their peers, remote students have had a different experience. For some, their decision was based on COVID-19 related health and safety concerns. This was the case for Almendra Ron ‘24, whose family made the decision to stay remote based on the number of people in her household, and believed it would be “too risky” to attend in-person school.
Additionally, some people opted into hybrid learning, then switched to fully remote learning before in-person shifts began attending. “I technically opted in [to hybrid learning], but it was because if we didn’t opt in, we wouldn’t get the chance to go back to [in-person] school. And at the time, they wanted us to opt in or opt out,” Jane Brunson ‘24 said. “We didn’t really know what it would be like, at the time of going back to school. [It was] right after spring break, and people were coming back from … places that could be high risk, and I would have no way of knowing [where they went]. I decided I didn’t feel safe going.”
The decision for Charlotte Cox ‘24 to stay remote or attend school in a hybrid format was made by both Cox and her parents. “It was kind of a combination … [my parents] wanted me to stay home, [but] since there’s only a few months left of school, I was fine with it too.” Input on the decision varied for Payton students, with some guardians making the decision for their student based on their needs.
However, Brunson was allowed to make the decision on her own, and her parents told her to “do whatever feels best for you, because this is your high school experience, your choice.” Ultimately, Brunson chose to stay at home. “I like working at home, [it’s] a nice break. So I chose [to stay] at home”.
With concerns over how the transition would go, the results have been mostly positive based on what the Paw Print has found. “It’s honestly going a lot smoother than I thought it would … [teachers] have lessons all planned out, they know exactly what they’re going to be doing. They know how to incorporate … in-person and online people. They know how to do that really well,” Brunson added.
“I can tell that [the teachers] are putting much effort into creating a balanced environment [for all students],” said Ron. “I haven’t noticed a particular change in workload, however, a lot of the work is more individual now, which I don’t mind.”
Although some students feel that teachers have been doing well with synthesizing classes for both types of learners, others have felt like there have been some struggles. “It’s been difficult at times … because teachers … forget that they’re [muted],” Brunson said. “One of [my teachers] forgot that she was muted, and wasn’t sharing anything [on her screen]. So she went through an entire [lesson], and we all thought we were supposed to be doing independent work. But then at the very end … she unmuted herself [and said] ‘Okay, guys, do you get that?’ And we were all like, ‘no.’ So we got exempt from that [assignment]. And that’s happened in many different classes. So I feel like [teachers], they’re forgetting about us remote people. But, I mean, it’s hard. I understand.”
Remote students also acknowledged that the different shifts help to level out the playing field. Shift A of in-person learners goes on most Mondays and Tuesdays, and Shift B of in-person learners attend on most Thursdays and Fridays. This leaves Wednesdays, which is when the school is often cleaned, as a fully remote day for everyone, including teachers. “While I usually feel disconnected from the people learning in school, I still get to interact with them during their remote shift and with fellow remote learners, so class doesn’t feel that isolating,” Ron said.
Cox agreed, saying, “[there has been] a divide in some classes, because… [you’re] in a completely different space … the people that are in-person aren’t talking to [remote students] over the computer, but like you’re still interacting with a lot of other people that are remote … Even if people aren’t staying remote the whole time, they are [learning remote for] half the time.”
While both learning environments have positive and negative experiences, some remote learners feel that the pros and cons cancel each other out. “I’m glad that my classmates have the opportunity to go into in-person classes, and from what I’ve heard it’s been a positive experience for them,” said Ron. “I really appreciate being able to wake up at 7:45 and get to class on time … I think we all have advantages and disadvantages.”
From what the Paw Print has heard from the interviewees, remote learners respect the decisions of their classmates. Whether chosen to stay fully remote or to go back in-person, every individual made has their own choice. “If it works for them, it works for them. I know some people needed to go back [in-person], and I’m glad they got this opportunity to go back. I wasn’t one of the people who needed to go back … and I don’t feel a need to meet people, which I understand that’s a big part of a lot of people going back,” Brunson said. “It’s their choice [and] they were the ones who wanted to [learn in-person]. So I’m completely fine with that, [and if] they are enjoying it, then it was a good choice.”
Since remote learners are in separate spaces from their classmates, they have to find different ways to connect with others. This has caused different socializing experiences for individuals. Cox said that she has “been able to see quite a few people.”
Ron has had a different experience: “I hang out with my family and friends from other schools that I knew previously. I haven’t had the chance to really hang out with fellow Payton students,” she said.
“I’ve met two people from my classes. One of them I talked to a little bit, [and] one of them I talked to and then forgot about,” Brunson said. “But I’m doing soccer, so I’ve been meeting people there, and the thing about that is that [the players] have a shared interest with me, which makes it a little bit easier to become friends. I feel that was a good replacement for going and meeting people.”
All three freshmen were optimistic about what changes might come about in their sophomore year. This comes as CPS is looking to have all students back in physical classrooms next year, five days a week. “I’m glad about the return to hybrid because even though I can’t participate, it makes me hopeful of a return to ‘normal’ and about going in-person by sophomore year,” Ron responded. “I’m looking forward to seeing what changes occur for next year, and if everyone will be in-person or hybrid.”