Yes, BLS Should Switch to a Remote Learning Model

By Amy Cui (III), Contributing Writer

The strikingly low attendance among the Boston Latin School community is becoming a new norm. Classrooms have not looked the same since the pandemic, and the latest surge of the Omicron variant has further altered the atmosphere of schools across the country, especially at BLS. With over 51,000 positive COVID-19 cases and the 20 percent absence rate in Massachusetts schools alone, Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) should consider virtual learning as an option to relieve the overstretched education system.

Governor Baker and Massachusetts officials are upholding a false sense of normalcy that jeopardizes both the individual and overall health of school communities. As with other issues, the more options the better, so why isn’t virtual learning on the table? The recent rise in cases has only highlighted the lack of protection and unsafe situations students and staff are exposed to every day. Virtual learning is a safer alternative that offers flexibility and adaptability with the rapidly mutating COVID-19 variant.

While going completely remote certainly has many negative effects because not all students can learn through a screen, it is crucial to understand that when discussing a virtual option, it is about giving schools the autonomy to make decisions that work best for their community.

Incorporating remote learning days opens up safer arrangements for individuals who need to quarantine. Staff shortages and large class absences would be accounted for, as students and teachers with COVID-19 could attend classes from the safety of their home.

When asked about her COVID-19 quarantining experience, Keeva Donoghue (III) says, “I didn’t have very harsh symptoms. […] I definitely feel like there were no symptoms that were stopping me from being able to take notes if I was in a virtual class or paying attention or attending class if it was virtual.” Many other students share similar experiences with Donoghue, where the largest effect of COVID-19 was the pressure and stress from falling behind in school. BLS English teacher Ms. Lynn Burke also agrees that “if we went remote, we would be able to keep everybody on the same page.”

Not only does virtual learning accommodate infected people, it also prevents infection among the immediate and extended members of the school community. Particularly for students who are awaiting COVID-19 test results or have family members positive with COVID-19, a virtual option significantly reduces the risk of transmission to high-risk family members with underlying health conditions.

William Hu (I) says, “They should have the option to be at home and feel safe, and it opens up so much more space for those who need to go in person.” As Hu points out, COVID-19 hotspots like the cafeteria, auditorium, staircases, hallways and entrance ways would be less crowded. Those who do need to attend in-person school due to varying home situations would be in overall safer learning conditions.

Pushing for a remote option in Massachusetts schools means a greater say in their approach to the recent COVID-19 surges, which promotes better physical and mental well-being in all school communities. In such an uncertain time and unwavering administration, it is critical to make one’s voice heard. Sign petitions and share information about the lack of choices for Massachusetts schools, and as Hu sums up, “[The governor’s administration and DESE] are not really giving us the option to feel safe, [but] safety shouldn’t be an option. It should be a right.”