SPF students experience virtual learning


Andrew Villardi, Staff Writer

The sudden departure from schools in March made the future of schooling uncertain for many students. Not only were they in the midst of a global pandemic, but they were now plunged into disorganized online classes, which many felt could not equate to in-person schooling. While optional hybrid schooling will begin on Jan. 19, and despite the fact that Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School students have surely gotten used to the routine of their online classes, the problems many face with the system still persist.
“Just sitting, and learning, and being in your classes for five, six, seven hours a day, and then afterwards having to do homework on the computer…that’s a little bit of a strain,” senior and member of the Student Government Association Ryan Eng said. “I do think that after a while it’s going to be harder to engage without going to class in person.”
While it may sound appealing to virtually commute to school, many people find it challenging to engage in their academics within their own home due to the distractions they face.. Many students, while they may not enjoy school, find it easier to concentrate when they are in a classroom face to face with their peers and teachers, and virtual schooling simply cannot provide the same experience. 
Many students may also not realize that a whole new year of students has begun high school virtually, and by starting off their years online, many freshmen have been faced with a unique set of challenges.
“It’s been challenging to meet new people this year,” freshman and SGA Officer Emily Park said. “I don’t know many kids from Park Middle School, and sometimes it’s awkward to get into breakout groups with these kids that I’ve never met.”
While high school is an academic space, the social aspects to it cannot be denied. For many, high school is a place to make new friends and have new experiences. Virtual learning is a necessity for the time being, but it cannot provide the social experiences of school that students get when attending in person.
These deficiencies with virtual learning are not to say that the system itself is bad, in fact most students have given positive feedback, especially when compared to the virtual learning experienced at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I think it’s more streamlined and it helps me stay organized,” Eng said. “All of my assignments are in one place, and all I have to do is log onto google classroom to see what assignments are due.”
Integration between education and technology has certainly improved this year, and most students would agree that it is much simpler to stay organized when all your work is on a device that the school provides.
The beginning of full-time block scheduling has also been a very popular change in the routines of students.
“I think it’s great that we only have four classes in one day, it really lightens the workload,” Park said. “I also really enjoy the 15 minute breaks, they give us time to cool down and prepare for the next class.”
While virtual learning is the current reality SPFHS students face, on Jan. 19 the school will reopen, however, it will be radically different due to the ongoing pandemic.
“We’re looking to reopen, obviously using the hybrid model, in mid-November” Dr. Heisey said, when asked about the Board of Education’s plans to reopen the school.
Students might remember that schools were originally slated to reopen in September using the hybrid model; however, this was postponed due to deficiencies with the air filtration system. 
Under the hybrid model, students will be split into two teams, blue and red, organized by order of last name. One team will attend school in person on Monday and Tuesday, the other will attend in person on Thursday and Friday, and school will be completely virtual on Wednesday to allow the building to be cleaned. The hybrid model will keep the implementation of the A/B day block scheduling.
“The school year started with disappointment, I can’t deny that…. But given the challenges we’ve faced, I’m pleased with how the school year began,” Heisey said.
The efforts of school staff, administration and the Board of Education as a whole should not be forgotten in this time, as they have gone to great lengths to create a viable learning environment with the limitations caused by this pandemic. While it might at times be difficult or frustrating, everyone must endure these challenges for the good of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community.

UPDATE: Schools were scheduled to reopen on Nov. 19. The date for reopening has since been pushed back to Jan. 19.