Survey: The Student Perspective of In-Person Learning


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Neillani Hallanderson

On March 13 of 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic forced students all over the country into the world of zoom classes and uncertainty. Fast forward a year and nearly eight months and the students of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland have been back to school in person for over three months. The story of these past couple of months has been late buses, assignment overload, stress, social awkwardness, but also more effective learning, the rekindling of old friendships, and the formation of new ones. We have all heard the news stories of bus driver shortages, COVID vaccines for children 12-17 and now 5-11, sanitation issues, etc., but what we have not heard much about are the students’ thoughts on the matter. 

An anonymous survey sent out to Roosevelt students ranging from grades 9-12 received 53 responses about how students feel about the return to in-person schooling for the 2021-22 school year, not just in terms of COVID, but also in terms of how it has affected their academic performance and social and mental health. Of these 53 students who responded, the majority (52.9%) initially felt both anxious and excited to return to school during the summer and two months after we have been back, 35.3% still feel a bit uneasy about being back in-person, but are also happy to be enjoying some of the benefits that in-person school has to offer. 

Many of the students that responded had both positive and negative things to say about how the return to in-person school has been handled by both the school and the county, as well as suggestions on how the school can improve the experience for them. Many students agreed with this Eleanor Roosevelt student who said that “Being back in-person is… much more engaging and conducive to learning.” It is no secret that virtual learning was difficult on many students academically, so the return to in-person must be resulting in higher comprehension and grades for many students nationwide.

The student also said that “It is… a big risk to be taking in these times” due to Coronavirus concerns.  The student said that they “feel as though masks and other safety precautions need to be better enforced.” Many students agreed with this, however there were also many students who claimed that the school has been doing an adequate job of enforcing safety protocols against COVID. The students suggested that “there should be more emphasis placed on students’ and staff’s mental well-being.” as we are still in the middle of a pandemic and the normal that we have all come to know has been dismantled. This is still a difficult time – whether that be mentally, financially, etc. – for many people.

As a positive, the student added that they “do, however, appreciate that they’ve provided opportunities and resources for continuing with distance learning, as well as resources for those financially affected by the pandemic.” Many students agreed that a benefit of being back to school in-person is “better contact with your teacher in case you need help.” One con of being back to school in-person that was commonly mentioned is waking up early, or, as one student put it, “not being able to wake up 2 minutes before class and just open the computer.”

Other complaints about the return to in-person schooling have been the “super crowded” hallways that many ERHS students agree is a major issue. In order to solve this problem, one student suggested that the school “section classes by grades (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th) on different floors so the hallways are less packed with people coming up and down the stairs.”

Many students are struggling with the jump back into a regular, more rigorous schedule and heavier workload than last year. One student said that a long day at school “Drains energy so it’s harder to do homework when you get back home.” Another student said that they “believe that being in/person and seeing friends is definitely a positive thing,” but “one negative thing about in-person is that some teachers might forget that we were virtual for a year and a half and assign work that we may not have retained very well.”

Another student expressed a different sentiment from what was commonly said about how being back to school in-person has affected them academically, saying that their overall academic performance was better online than in-person. They said that they’re social health has improved, but by “only 75%, not 100%.” They also expressed how they felt about the change in social activities that would have otherwise been held if it were not for the pandemic saying “yes we’re back to somewhat normal, but it’s still not normal. Like, this is not how everything was.”

When students were asked whether they would prefer to go back to virtual schooling or stay in-person, the majority (56.8%) said that they would prefer to stay in-person. Many common reasons given to support their decisions were that in-person school is better for their mental health, social health, academic performance, productivity, organization, focus, and physical activity. Of the remaining students who were surveyed, 25% said that they would go back to virtual schooling and 18.2% said that they would prefer a hybrid option.

Students who would prefer to return to virtual schooling say so due to the increased flexibility, decreased pressure, and safety that it offers, along with the lack of commute and later mornings. Some students who said that they would prefer to go to school virtually also said that they experienced better focus and grades while going to school online. Students who said that they would prefer to follow a more hybrid model of schooling said that they enjoy the benefits of both in-person and virtual options, such as the Wellness Wednesdays we had during virtual schooling and the social interaction we have in-person. 

Overall, the return to in-person schooling has not exactly been a smooth transition for the students of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, however, the majority agrees that it has been beneficial and enjoyable in many ways, despite the downfalls. The face-to-face interaction with teachers and fellow classmates has been a huge help to many and it seems that most believe that the pros of in-person schooling are enough to make them want to stick it out.