The Helena Public School District first shut down schools in response to COVID-19 back in March, and began the 2020-2021 school year in September with a hybrid schooling model, two days physically in school and three days online (with the option to go fully remote if students wished to do so). Because of these changes, some new terms have been introduced when speaking about the school situation. For reference, “hybrid” or “in-person” students refer to a student who is physically attending school two days a week, while a “DLI” (or distance learning initiative) student is a student who is attending school completely online. Whether it is time management, stress levels, or social well-being, the move to blended learning has affected everyone differently.
One of the main topics of debate among students is whether this hybrid model is working effectively. In a survey filled out by 173 Helena High School students, 50.4% of participants say that the hybrid learning model is not working for them. 22.6% of students say that it is working for them, with 27% of students remaining neutral. “[Being in school] has helped with adjusting to high school,” says freshman Will Eaton. “I’m managing, but it would obviously be better if it was five days a week,” Eaton said.
It seems that this opinion is a common one among the general student body. After months of isolated living, it makes sense most people want to go back to school full-time. A staggering 64.9% of hybrid students agreed that they would like to be back in school five days a week.
“Despite the advantages of working from my house, I’d like to be back in school to still gain that experience,” senior Madison Krantz said. “With the current set-up, some of my classes such as choir and art have been really hard to execute at home because they are really hands-on classes where you need the teacher to be there and you need the supplies or instructions they have to give you. However, I would prefer if they kept the same time schedule we have now, because I feel more energized after a shorter day of school to do my work,” Krantz said.
Phase One school structure has a few perks, such as the shorter school days. However, some students think that teachers are assigning more work. 45.2% of in-person students say that the amount of homework that they have been assigned is not manageable, and 80.3% of hybrid students say that their stress levels are higher than last year. The DLI numbers correlate closely, with almost 80% of DLI survey participants agreeing they feel overwhelmed with schoolwork.
Despite these statistics, there is still some division on this issue. While some students agree that the amount of homework they have been assigned is extreme, others say that the total shutdown in March was more taxing then things are now. “In March, it was definitely harder than it is now, because [now] you get to see your teachers two days a week and see what work you have,” sophomore CJ Flugge said.
This opinion is seconded by junior Emily MacQuarrie. “I wouldn’t say I’m more stressed. I think it’s more work than we had at the end of last year, but since it is so much clearer and everyone kind of knows what they are doing now, it doesn’t feel more stressful,” said MacQuarrie.
Overall, the consensus over Phase One learning is still divided. One student pointed out a positive aspect of the current situation: “School didn’t change for so many years…but now I feel like no matter what happens or what changes, we’ll be able to adapt around it,” MacQuarrie said.
Stay strong Bengals! We got this! Keep on keeping on, and someday we’ll be able to sit in our classes with all our classmates and will never have to suffer through a glitchy Teams call ever again!