Starting March 22, NAFCS high school students will be required to make a choice between being fully virtual or physically attending school in person five days a week.
“I do believe it is the right time since school and county COVID numbers have improved and vaccinations have been moving along,” principal Dr. Michelle Ginkins said.
On March 22 the hybrid option will go away. Students will be sent a Google Form in the next few day where they will select fully virtual or fully in-person. The last all-virtual Wednesday will March 17.
“I really like going only two days a week so I am a little disappointed that I will have to go either every day or be virtual every, day but I don’t have a legitimate reason not to go [into the building] every day,” junior Teodora Slavova said. “I did consider changing to fully virtual because I don’t like being in school but I decided it’s best to stay hybrid.”
The change comes after spending a majority of the 2020-2021 school year with the hybrid A/B schedule, with the exception of the weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break. At the beginning of the school year, students were given the option between attending school on s hybrid schedule, based on last names, or being fully virtual. Eventually, the numbers allowed for students to opt into attending four days.
“I chose to go four days because I can’t focus at all in online school,” junior Chase Walters said. “I’ve been five days for most of the school year. I think [going back five days] will actually help me get my work done because I can’t sit in front of a screen for seven hours then have to do homework right after, it’s horrible.”
As of right now, less than one fifth of the student body report to the building, and because so many in person students are currently attending four days, it’s suspected this number of “in-person” students will not increase too much starting March 22.
“When we pull attendance on any given day, there are usually just under 400 students in attendance in person,” Ginkins said. “I believe approximately half of those students who are attending in person are doing so four days per week. I am very hopeful that the numbers will increase, but am planning to send out a student survey next week to get a more accurate prediction of how many more students will be here each day.”
When students complete the Google Form, students are expected to make a permanent decision. While it was never encouraged, on the previous schedule, students would often be labeled as “hybrid” but chose to stay home.
“Students and parents have been informed that there are two options: five days in person or five days virtual,” Ginkins said. “If a student is not being consistent with attendance, there may be a discussion with the student and parent, if necessary, regarding their choice.”
The decision comes at a time where teachers are starting to get vaccinated. The Biden administration set a goal to get every teacher, child care worker, and school employee to get their first dose by the end of March, and pharmacies inside of Meijer, Kroger, and Walmart opened their doors for teachers under the age of 50, who previously did not qualify, according to The Indy Star.
“I think the teachers being vaccinated was an important factor in the decision [for students to return] because it would make returning to school safer for [teachers],” Slavova said.
With the possibility for more people in the building, Covid-19 mitigations, such as social distancing and wearing a mask will continue, and will be more important than ever. As of February 8, the state of Indiana requires students to be socially distanced three feet to prevent quarantines, compared to the original six feet.
“I don’t mind wearing a mask and I think we should wear them at least until the end of spring/ the beginning of summer,” Slavova said. “I think with more kids in the classrooms I will be more comfortable wearing masks.”
Ginkins says she looks forward to seeing more students return to the building full time, and hopes it gives students who are struggling an extra boost, and creates opportunities for those who are not.
“Our hope is, of course, that it will positively impact student learning,” Ginkins said. “We know that it is difficult for students to focus, stay engaged, and take advantage of additional assistance and support from teachers and staff when they are not in the building. Grade data in our school and other schools throughout the country show that there has been a negative impact on student learning.”