TAHS Students Sharply Split on Return to School Plan

The Eagle Eye asked all TAHS students in grades 9-12 to share their opinions on in-person instruction

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Hayden Loudenslager

The TASD School Board will vote tonight on a plan to return students to full time instruction.

By Rocky Romani and Sarah Jackson

The debate over the current hybrid model of instruction being used at Tyrone Area Middle and High School and a proposal to return students to full-time instruction has been a hot topic among students at TAHS.

The Tyrone Area School Board is set to vote on a plan tonight at 7 pm that will return students in the middle and high school to full-time instruction.

The Eagle Eye conducted a survey of all high school students last week and found opinions on this issue sharply split among the student body.

Just over 46% of TAHS students who responded to the survey prefer to return to full-time in-person instruction, while 41.6% want to continue with the current hybrid model. Another 12.2% percent would prefer to go fully online for the foreseeable future. 

results of survey 1
The survey was sent to all TAHS students during the week of 10/5/20 – 10/09/20

Return to full-time instruction – 46.2%

Among students who would like to return to full-time instruction, the most common reason cited was due to academics.

While almost 70% of students said that their grades have stayed the same or gone up this school year, over 30% of the students reported that their grades have declined since starting the hybrid schedule. 

“I personally need the in-class instruction because I do not have a degree in education and I need to be taught my lessons,” said one student responding to the survey.

Others mentioned having trouble doing schoolwork at home as their reason for wanting a return to full-time instruction.

“I have trouble doing [my work at home] because of my environment, I get very stressed and depressed when I’m home, I skip work and it’s harder to understand what to do. It has lowered my grades,” said one student.

Some students also cited the loss of social interaction at school as a reason for wanting to return to full-time instruction.

“I think even if someone were to get coronavirus, going back full time would have more of a positive impact than a negative one. Kids need to be in school. It gives structure to their lives, provides them with social interaction that is safe, and will make sure they are getting educated to the best of their ability,” said one of the survey respondents.

Most of the students in favor of a return to full-time instruction still want the school to require masks and promote social distancing as precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

“I think if we all use safety precautions we will be okay. We are going to have cases, everyone knows that, but it is how we respond to those cases that is important. Quarantine and contact tracing helps,” said another.

Others feel that the threat of COVID is overblown and just want to see everything to get back to normal. Over a quarter of the students (26.3%) do not agree with the mask requirement at school.

“Personally, I think that things need to get up and running again. People are going to get sick either way so we should come back full time without the masks and continue as normal,” said one student.

Stay with the hybrid schedule – 41.6%

However, there was another large group of students (41.6%) who would like to keep the hybrid schedule as it is, at least for the foreseeable future.   

The reason most cited by this group of students is concern about spreading the coronavirus if all students return to the school. 

“I feel that there will be no way of proper social distancing if all students are required to go full time. Putting each other at risk is the last thing we should want to do and I strongly feel that one case is one too many,” said one student in the comments.

Many of these students are concerned that social distancing will not be possible with all students in school full time.

“Some rooms are 25+ students and a teacher. The rooms are not big enough to safely distance students. No mask breaks so what might happen is whiney students will take them off anyway or do that under the nose thing that won’t help anything. It’s not safe, no one will be able to safely distance themselves from anyone,” said another student. 

Other students reported being upset by peers and even some staff who are not taking the virus seriously and worry about the consequences if there are more students in the building.  

“As a teen, most feel uncomfortable to say that they are uncomfortable with this in fear that they will be made fun of. I have even had teachers who had [their mask] around their chin or not covering their nose come up to my desk to hand me papers or answer a question. If there are staff who don’t even follow mask rules, how can we expect them to enforce the rules towards the students,” said one student.

Some students expressed concern for their teachers and other staff members as another reason for opposing a return to full-time instruction.

“Teachers do not have a choice of whether or not they are full time or hybrid,” said one student. “Increasing the risk of the staff who make our school run every day is extremely inconsiderate. Bringing kids back full-time raises the risk for the staff who are already high risk. It raises the risk for people who are not young and more likely to get infected. They come to school every day and try their best to educate the students with the time they have. I have had many teachers plead with us to keep our masks on because they are extremely high risk and are afraid to get infected. However, they still have to come to school so they can have a job and their paycheck to live.”

Other students cited the increased flexibility of the hybrid schedule as a positive change and something they would like to see continue. 

“For me personally, my grades have gone up and I am doing very well with hybrid. I still get to learn in school for part of the week, and I enjoy my days off where I can complete the work at my own pace,” said a student who answered the survey. 

One student cited the experience as being helpful for college. 

“Being at home allows me to work at my own pace and practice self-discipline that I know will be helpful for when I go to college,” said this student.

Survey results 2
The survey was sent to all TAHS students during the week of 10/5/20 – 10/09/20

Full online instruction – 12.2%

Just over 12% of the students would like to see the district move to full online instruction.

Many of the students who want to go fully remote reported being extremely concerned about the virus. Some have preexisting conditions themselves, and/or live with someone who does. 

These students want the school to be as cautious as possible until the pandemic is over.  

“If there is a chance for anyone to develop COVID-19 who is immuno-compromised, why take that risk? Are you willing to deal with the consequences of their possible infection or death? When this happens will you pretend that you didn’t know? Or that it was the student’s responsibility to inform the school that they are compromised? How will you address the impending infections?” asked one student.

One student cited the arrival of flu season in addition to the pandemic as a reason to reconsider the plan to move ahead with full-time instruction.

“Officials say we are about to peak again between November-December, and if that is true and we really want to send everyone back full-time, I feel we should wait until after Christmas vacation. I think it would be easier to transition after the long break and hopefully, the peak will have died down from then,” said this student. 

A significant percentage of students, 49.3%, reported living with someone that suffers from a preexisting condition that would make them more prone to serious complications from COVID-19.

Eight percent of the students surveyed also reported having a pre-existing condition themselves. 

“Remote learning will do us no good in the aspect of learning; however, it will keep us safe. Full-time might bring my grades up, but is risky to the health of the students.” said one respondent. 

Safe at school?

When asked if students feel safe at school right now under the hybrid schedule, 29% said that they strongly agree that they feel safe, while 25.8% somewhat agree, and 29.4% are neutral. Only 7.2% of students somewhat disagreed and 8.6% strongly disagreed that school is safe under the hybrid model.

When asked if they would feel safe if the school returns to full-time instruction, students are almost evenly split between strongly agree and strongly disagree.  

Almost 39% of students believe strongly or somewhat strongly they would not feel safe, while almost 41% of the students report that they would feel safe. Twenty percent were neutral on the question of student safety in the full-time instructional model.

A slight majority of the students think that the school is doing enough to keep the community safe from the spread of COVID-19. Over 35% of the students agreed with that statement, and another 18.4% strongly agreed. 

On the issue of masks, 49.8% of students agree or strongly agree that masks should be worn by everyone in the building.  Another 20.8% are neutral on the question, and 26.3% of students do not believe that masks should be required.

Methods and results

This was not a scientifically randomized sample survey. However, all students in grades 9-12 were invited to take the survey, which was emailed to everyone in the school and promoted on the Eagle Eye social media. Only students with a tasd.us student email address could access the survey. Students were only allowed to respond once. Student names and email addresses were not collected so that student responses could remain anonymous.  

Just over 41% of all Tyrone students in grades 9-12 (221 students) responded to the survey. There were 49 freshmen, 65 sophomores, 41 juniors, and 66 seniors. Forty-eight percent of the students who responded were “A” team students, 48% were “B” team students, 1.8% come to school every day and 3.2% were full-time cyber students.

The full results of the survey and all open-ended comments left by the students can be accessed by clicking the links below:

TAHS School Schedule_COVID-19 Student Survey RESULTS

CONCERNS – Google Docs

PROS AND CONS – Google Docs

SCHOOL BOARD – Google Docs

HYBRID – Google Docs

This story was originally published on Tyrone Eagle Eye News on October 13, 2020.