Students React to Yet Another Schedule Change


After spending almost the entire first semester in full remote learning mode, Upper School students and faculty now get to participate in a 50% in-person learning schedule for the second semester. Though some students are staying home, the many Latin students and faculty are excited to transition out of remote learning and come back on campus. The new in-person schedule aims to reinstall a long-missed sense of normalcy and help get students back in the classrooms.
The new schedule put students back on campus on January 11, though in-person learning is optional if students want to stick with remote learning. There are four synchronous classes a day—two in the morning, and two in the afternoon. Juniors and seniors attend classes on campus in the mornings before swapping out for freshman and sophomores, who come to campus in the afternoon.
Students have been assigned to specific study hall and other community time locations to limit exposure; all hallways are one-way (the traffic is directed by arrows on the ground); masks are mandatory at all times. Additionally, weekly COVID saliva screening tests are being administered.
According to the US Transition Team, 19% of the Upper School student body will remain remote. 13% of freshmen are remote, 8% of sophomores, 21% of juniors, and 34% of seniors.
Karen Horvath, a member of the Transition Team, also confirmed that the new four-class schedule will remain in place for the rest of the semester. She said, “Regardless of COVID conditions, we will not return to the six class a day schedule prior to the end of the school year. If in-person learning is in need of a pause, this schedule will still be followed, but in a fully remote format.”
When asked why this is the right time to restart in-person learning, Ms. Horvath said, “We are confident about in-person learning now because we have strengthened our processes. We also know more about what we need to do to stay safe than we did in the early part of the school year. Research data and public health information as well as direction and guidance from our advisory panel and our senior medical consultant make us confident that continued in-person learning is safe.” In regards to new steps taken to prevent transmissions, she said, “Of course we have to continue to be disciplined and vigilant in adhering to our current protocols but with the addition of community testing as one of the new ways to enhance safety, we are confident that continued in-person learning is possible in all divisions of the school.”
The Forum recently sent a survey to students and faculty regarding the Latin community’s response to going back to school. A total of 161 people completed the survey, and of those people, 77% said they are planning on going back to school in person, 18% are staying remote, and the remainder were still undecided, which is consistent with the Transition Team’s projections.
The three main reasons for returning, based on the survey, were to see fellow classmates, to attend in-person classes instead of staying online, and to have a sense of normalcy. The driving factors for not returning to school were COVID concerns, the belief that online school is easier, and the earlier wake-up time that comes with having to physically go to school. When asked if the new schedule, including the earlier wake-up time, will increase or decrease productivity, surprisingly, 59% of students and faculty believe the new schedule will decrease productivity and 17.4% think it will increase productivity.
Senior Brendan Myers is in favor of remote learning. “Remote learning has given me the freedom to do whatever I want,” he said.
Similarly, sophomore Eli Elterman said, “I definitely enjoyed remote learning as it made attending classes a lot easier and I am very comfortable in my home, but I would rather attend school in person.”
Sophomore Callie Milner shares Eli’s view: “I have become accustomed to remote learning and think the teachers have done a great job of making Zoom as engaging and interactive as possible, so I am not too opposed to remote learning. However, I am very excited to be in a classroom with people and resume that personal connection.”
Additionally, senior Henry Coleman said, “I didn’t like remote school initially, and I definitely think it still has its problems, but I will say that I’ve gotten used to the routine of it all. It will be nice to go back in person, but at the same time, a bit exhausting to have another change in my schedule.” The consensus seems to be that although remote education has had its perks, students are excited about finally returning to in-person learning.
The excitement around returning to school is due in part to the prospect of regaining some semblance of pre-COVID life. Junior Vivie Koo said, “I am jumping at the opportunity to engage in in-person learning because it is something I have wanted to do since March. I want to go into school because, even if it is just for a few hours, being at school will give me a sense of normalcy, and it will allow me to engage with my peers, some of whom I have not seen in months.”
Similarly, sophomore Carly Warms is excited about going back to campus. She said, “I believe that by going to school, I am giving myself the best learning opportunity. I hope that being in the school environment will allow me to be more productive because I will be surrounded by my peers. I also hope that classes will be more engaging because I won’t have to just stare at my computer screen all day.”
The students who are staying remote chose to do so for a variety of reasons. Senior Truman Connelly said, “I’m not going back for a while because my mom is immunocompromised and [going back to school] is not a risk I’m willing to take, as much as I’d like to be back to normal life.”
Senior Brendan Myers is also staying home, but for different reasons. “To me, it’s not worth going back to school for two to three hours,” he said. “The whole system doesn’t make that much sense. Why would anyone want to get up early just to go to school with even more rules than usual?”
For students like Brendan, the hassles and risks associated with in-person learning far outweigh the pro of being in a classroom once again. “At Latin, you are required to wear a mask, have to do weekly saliva tests, cannot leave the building or your assigned room, and, not to mention, every moment I am there I would be concerned about getting sick from someone who decides to break the rules.”
Still, for some students, the experience of simply being in school is one they can’t let slip by.
“It’s the passing periods that you do in your room when you used to be running from the fifth floor to the science center passing familiar and new freshmen faces,” said Vivie. “It’s the gatherings that brought the school together for a brief moment of the day that are now large Zooms where everyone is muted and have their cameras off. Even though we may not get these experiences back for a little while, I find comfort and excitement knowing that I will at least be able to walk through the doors of the building and be greeted by Sami, and sit in a desk other than the one in my room.”