Local public schools open late, balancing in-person and virtual learning

Conestoga High School on October 30, 2020 – Connor Pinsk ’23

All around the country, public schools are beginning to open up into a hybrid form of learning. Opening schools include schools in both Tredyffrin/Easttown and Montgomery County. 

     On October 12, Conestoga High School opened up, allowing students to arrive and learn at the school in-person. Currently, the school has two cohorts of students, these groups are based on the student’s last names. Depending on the day, one of these groups is allowed to learn in-person and the other group must learn from the safety of their homes. However, the school does not require students to be in-person at the school.

     “The Board of Directors followed the CDC guidelines when opening the school. They have added a plexiglass barrier for the teacher and the desks have been rearranged to accommodate for social distancing,” Conestoga sophomore Ethan Liu, a virtual student, said.

     The TE school district appears to be following the guidelines that the CDC listed on their website. Students are required to social distance, wear masks at all times (except to eat lunches), and sanitize their hands regularly. Students eat lunch in designated areas, which are classrooms that are monitored by a faculty member at all times. Additionally, students are required to fill out an online screening form before entering the building. 

     When asked about being a virtual student, Liu said, “I don’t want to get COVID-19. It is much safer to be at home.”

     Conestoga sophomore Evan Lu agrees.

     “I believe that schools should reopen. They have an obligation to the community to function as centers for learning and help. However, I am not returning to school in-person because there is not a strong need for me to go back. It is far safer for me to stay at home,” Lu said. 

     Although the reopening of schools in the TE district has been successful, that does not mean there were not any hiccups along the way.

     “There are some issues with technology. It is also hard to interact with students in-person when you are virtual,” Lu said. 

     “There have been a lot of technological issues,” Liu agreed. “The teachers are being forced to work with technology that is relatively new to them.”

     These two students are hopeful that the school will continue to be open, but they have doubts about students following mask protocols and other such safety measures put in place by the school.

     “As school progresses and students become more comfortable in school, they might let their guard down and rules might be less strictly enforced,” Lu said. 

     Liu and Lu both also raised concerns about the efficiency of hybrid learning compared to all virtual or all in-person learning. 

     “I feel that there are miscommunications and other such issues in between online and offline students. Things such as presentations can be weird when the student does not have a direct presence in the classroom as the people online don’t have the same visuals as the people in school,” Liu said.

     Like The Haverford School, Conestoga also experienced a schedule change. In a normal school year, they would have eight periods in one day. Now they have four per day, alternating which periods they have every other day.  

     Conestoga has had one reported case of COVID-19 in the faculty and no cases reported within the student body. 

     Radnor High School has also opened, albeit sooner than Conestoga. Radnor opened on September 20 for freshmen and seniors for one week, then to the rest of the people in school. Students still have the option to remain virtual if they wish.

“It is much easier for a teacher to interact with students in the physical classroom. It is a lot easier to converse with others when you are in-person.”

Radnor student Amanda Lee ’23

     The Radnor schedule is also similar to Conestoga’s schedule, with two cohorts evenly splitting in-person learning. This schedule is modified from their typical schedule, which, like Conestoga, has eight periods in one day. Each class is about 80 minutes.

     “There have not been many reopening issues,” in-person Radnor sophomore Amanda Lee said. “The teachers have to adjust to the restrictions put in place by the school due to COVID-19. Almost all of the activities we do are online, and we need our devices at all times.”

     Radnor has hired additional faculty members to help police the students in cafeterias and in hallways. Mask wearing is a must at all times, as well as the regular use of hand sanitizer. 

     Like Conestoga, Radnor faces problems with virtual students interacting with students in-person. “It is much easier for a teacher to interact with students in the physical classroom,” Lee said. “It is a lot easier to converse with others when you are in-person.”