Lucy Kerr '23
When NCS announced that students would be starting the blended learning model in November, I was initially worried about whether it was safe to go back to school. As the date of returning to campus crept closer, my worries grew larger. Though my doubts about the health risk were slightly alleviated by NCS’s extensive health and safety protocols, they were not diminished by any means, and I began to wonder if there was truly a benefit to starting the blended model.
The one-week in person and one-week virtual model makes sense as an attempt to allow for social distancing in classrooms and minimize exposure in the scenario of an outbreak, yet this model also strikes me as disruptive with potential for confusion in an already unstable and anxiety-inducing time. Additionally, changes to a student’s day like mandatory in-person athletics and added morning time commuting to school are all disruptive changes to the routines that students have gotten used to over the past months of virtual school.
When I interviewed two of my classmates the weekend before they would be returning to campus as part of Cohort 1, they had similar worries. Sigrid Drefke ’23 said that she had “mixed emotions about [the blended learning model]... I’m excited to see people I wouldn’t go out of my way to see otherwise, but I’m scared that this is too big of a step for where our region is right now… I think that I have to see firsthand what the school is doing to make an accurate opinion.” Penelope Jia ’23 also voiced concern, saying, “I know the school is doing the best they can to keep everyone safe, but I still can’t help but feel anxious. Plus, it will definitely be strange returning to campus after months.”
Amid all the concerns surrounding a return to campus, it seems doubtful that the blended-learning model is truly worth it. I might be pessimistic, but the possible benefits of blended-learning don’t seem to outweigh the negative aspects. Many of the class plans for students in the classroom are not much different from the plans for remote students, despite the fact that on-campus students are facing more risks and difficulties. Additionally, entirely virtual periods of learning are taking place after holiday breaks, which is a necessary decision, but diminishing time on campus also dissolves possible benefits students receive by being on campus. The potential for benefit from an early return to campus seems small, while the potential for problems seems high.
In addition, the risk of exposure to the virus in a time where national and local cases are on the rise, as well as the beginning of a season when many people’s immune systems are compromised by other illnesses, seems like enough alone to outweigh the possible benefits. Even a smaller risk such as a student’s mental health suffering due to the stress of seemingly constant change and instability needs to be considered.
However, I am still hopeful that a return to campus may prove to be worth the possible risks. I also hope that the risks are not as dramatic as I have speculated. Students showed remarkable adaptability when transitioning to online school in the spring and I hope that same adaptability helps students to return to campus now.