Opinion: Fully In-Person Learning is Unsafe: Why We Need to Remain in the Hybrid Model

Clark shares to move students back into school fully is both unsafe and irresponsible.

Shannon Clark '23

Clark shares to move students back into school fully is both unsafe and irresponsible.

Shannon Clark '23, Contributing Writer


Living through a pandemic as a teenager really sucks.* Adults tell us that high school should be ‘the time of our lives’ and yet, here we are staying home to watch the same Netflix show for the eighth time. Not only are we missing out on a part of life designated to having fun, but also for preparing us for adulthood. Applying to colleges has become even more difficult and participating in sports, arts, and clubs is nearly impossible. Balancing the time spent on a computer with breaks that are a healthy length is a skill not many of us have mastered. Worst of all, there’s the emotional expense of the pandemic. And though most of us high school students aren’t legal adults, we have concerns about the pandemic. Many of us know peers and adults who have been sick with Covid-19, and even some people who have passed away from the virus. In considering the safety of those around me, I have concluded it would be irresponsible to send high school students and staff back to school five days a week for the duration of the school year.


With the new variants of Covid-19, the virus is even more transmissible, so social distancing is more vital than ever. These new variants continue to be studied, but some questions remain unanswered. Without knowing the full effects of the variants but knowing they are highly transmissible, it is against all logic to want to send more students to school. Though there is some evidence that the virus doesn’t spread as quickly in schools, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t spread at all, nor does it mean students shouldn’t be concerned for their own health or the health of their families.

The rates of Covid-19 are now higher than they were last April where extremely few, if any, precautionary measures were taken. In the week of April 22, 2020, there were 133 cases in Westborough. As of the week of February 19, 2021, there were 1,320 cases in Westborough. And it is important to note: there would be far more cases if educators in the schools weren’t as diligent in following proper safety guidelines. If we are changing the style of learning this year based on the data, we probably should move from hybrid to remote as we can’t control the number of cases as it is. So why would we do the opposite and push to send additional students into an unsafe environment only to further endanger them and their families?

Students’ Mental Health

One of the main reasons I have read for returning to school is to protect students’ mental health. While it may be true that some students** struggle learning at home (which is a completely valid response), there are contrarily students who struggle with learning at school. I am one of those students who have found it difficult to learn in-person at school this year, which may come as a surprise, but I don’t think people realize how hard it really is to learn on an in-person day. You are staring at a slideshow or at a whiteboard for 50 minutes, facing forward, far away from other students with masks on. There is little to no connection with other students or staff, through no fault of their own. At times, it feels like I am trapped. I can’t speak for other students, but the isolation for 6 hours a day is nearly unbearab

There is little to no connection with other students or staff, through no fault of their own. At times, it feels like I am trapped.”

— Shannon Clark '23

le for me. Personally, I love asynchronous days. I find I am far more productive on those days, where I can test my knowledge and work at my own pace.

Yes, I can go into the remote program if I so desire, but I don’t think learning on Zoom every day is a reasonable solution either. So though it may be a struggle for both students who find it difficult to learn at home or at school, it is only two out of the five days per week. The hybrid model provides opportunities for both in-person and online learning, so students can learn from both methods. It also wouldn’t be fair to transition to a fully in-person model, causing students to feel uncomfortable and unsafe because a group of other students struggle at home a couple days a week.

Not only is it unfair, but abruptly changing how students are learning lacks consistency and would not be good for their wellbeings. We have been in the hybrid model for the entire year, and haven’t been to school five days a week for 11 months. Suddenly changing the plan in an attempt to please a fragment of the population is not right. Students, staff, and families have adjusted to hybrid learning and would have to adapt to a completely new model with far less than half of the school year left. Students would be restarting their year with about 2 months of school left instead of sticking with the effective hybrid model already in place. Academically, students would need time for readjustment during the school year, which would further skew the timeline for teachers, of whom would already have to scrap their plans for the remainder of the year and to start anew.

Furthermore, just because the school would re-open to full capacity doesn’t mean Covid-19 would disappear. Students may potentially be anxious that they will contract the virus themselves and bring it home to their families since more students would be added, increasing the risk of transmission. Setting aside the health risks, it is also important to note being around such an increased number of people at one time would be a major adjustment for many students, and potentially increase anxiety. Students likely haven’t been around a crowd of that volume since last March. Instantly doubling the number of students in a class and in the building will be overwhelming to students and staff as the pandemic has injured the normalcy of human interaction in larger group settings.


Currently, Westborough Public Schools are at about half capacity, as students are split between hybrid cohorts, Cardinal and Navy, while the other portion of students are fully remote. There is a maximum of 15 desks in each classroom and 3-6 feet apart for social distancing purposes. If we were to transition back to full capacity, the desks would be nearly touching one another, leaving absolutely no room for social distancing. Some classrooms only have tables in their classrooms, meaning more than one student would be at one work space, as is the case in many science classrooms in WHS.

Plus, hallways are already crowded with students walking from class to class with just half the school present. So having 1200 students walking in close proximities simultaneously is inviting the virus to spread.

Logistically, transitioning from hybrid to entirely in-person models would be timely. Half of the desks need to be moved into the building from the storage containers to the correct classrooms. Each desk in each classroom would have to be readjusted so that it fits within social distancing guidelines, if that’s even possible. The proposed, tentative date for reopening the high school is around the end of March to early April, meaning all of this transition of physical space would have to be done by then. Say the timeline wasn’t highly unlikely, the process would still send us remote for at least one week, which defeats the purpose of sending us fully in-person. Perhaps the goal will be moved to over April break, but what would be the benefit of sending us back in-person for a month and a half?

Plus, students will still be in the all-remote program with additional students likely to opt into the program to ensure their safety with the increased numbers in school. It isn’t fair to make students choose between going to school and feeling safe.

Vaccinating Teachers

Vaccinating teachers will help reduce the spread of the virus as well as protect teachers. President Biden and the CDC say teachers should be considered top priority for the vaccine, but they aren’t required for the reopening of schools. This bit of information is accurate, but often leaves out an important detail: President Biden’s definition of “reopening” schools is being back at school at least one day a week. As we are already in the hybrid model already, our district meets t

Vaccinating teachers will help reduce the spread of the virus as well as protect teachers.”

— Shannon Clark '23

his criteria already. The President’s goal is more directed toward schools that have not opened in any capacity since last March. We’ve met his standard and should not push reopening further so we avoid entering a distressed state.

And if we’re being honest, Westborough’s consistently high educational standards ensure that no students are being deprived of a top-notch education. Westborough’s school system continues to be one of the best districts in the state; our educations are not the ones severely suffering from the pandemic.


Even if our education was being extremely compromised, which it isn’t, we’re still accomplishing the most remarkable thing: living. We are living through a global pandemic. This isn’t a usual occurrence. Mentally, emotionally, physically; it’s exhausting. Staying in your house as best you can, eliminating non-essential activities including visiting with family and friends is depressing. Seeing the cases in the United States continue to grow daily and the number of global deaths reach over 2.4 million lives lost weigh us all down. Finding ways to stay happy and healthy have become more difficult over the past year. Everyone should be proud of themselves for persevering through these hard times, students included. Life is exhausting right now, and though school might be an appreciated distraction for some, for others it is another negative occurrence. So even if school doesn’t meet every high mark per usual, that’s perfectly acceptable: let school come second and allow us to survive.

Converting to entirely in-person learning is an unnecessary risk that should not be taken. Wanting to go back to life before the pandemic is something everyone desires, but you can’t force it. If we open up too early, there will be long lasting consequences preventing us from returning back to ‘real life’ as scheduled. There will be endless opportunities for children to learn in life, but there aren’t endless opportunities to prevent people from dying. We must do our part to keep others safe now so we don’t have regrets later.

*I recognize the word sucks is considered a slang term and I do not wish to diminish my credibility as a student journalist; however, I believe the word fits in this context.

**I would like to reiterate that every student’s feelings are valid, and I am in no way minimizing anyone’s emotions. But it is important to look at the whole when considering implementing major changes such as this.

Sources consulted: