I’m not a fan of hybrid learning and never was. When the two options of hybrid and distance first came out, I felt like I was choosing between my life or my education: a decision that no student should ever have to make. Like many students, I chose the hybrid learning plan in part because the Distance Learning Academy (DLA) wouldn’t guarantee South teachers. This would result in the lack of structure that I have developed since freshman year. With that in mind, the school district seemed very unprepared in developing a plan for the DLA, thus leading me to choose the hybrid model.
The hybrid learning plan was discriminatory in many ways. In particular, it failed to consider the needs of students in METCO. As a student in METCO, the lack of consideration for our wellbeing was — and still is — frustrating. With the hybrid plan, I would have to wake up early to catch the bus to go to school and leave in the middle of the day just to finish my classes online. I would spend more time traveling between home and school than I would learning. Traveling takes such a huge toll on students like me. Amidst a pandemic, I’d assume the district would make an effort to transition back to learning without disrupting students’ health; however, that was not the case.
Another concern I had for the hybrid model was the number of irresponsible people who would put others at risk. Worse, the impact of one irresponsible person could cost students and faculty their lives. This impact would be much greater in a hybrid setting than DLA. All over social media, I’ve seen people partying nonstop and going out without a mask. It’s still dangerous. COVID-19 already disproportionately affects people like me, so by my returning, I’m already on an uneven playing field. South students, most of whom are white and live in Newton, are far less vulnerable than I will ever be if there’s a COVID-19 outbreak at school.
My mother is recovering from surgery; if I were to transmit COVID-19 to her because a few people from school decided to be irresponsible, I could never forgive myself. The emotional toll that would take on me is something that Newton South is not prepared to tackle. It’s important to keep in mind that the school had no rules set in place if someone were to take off their mask and refuse to put it back on or if people were to disregard the social distancing rules. School should serve as a safe space, not only emotionally, but health wise as well.
All in all, this conversation contributes to a much larger discussion about equity. We know Black, Latinx, METCO, and disabled students are constantly going to be the ones most greatly impacted by these school decisions. Time and time again their voices, including mine, have been overlooked for the sake of white people prioritizing their happiness over the wellbeing of their counterparts. I’m elated that the school retracted their hybrid decision and incorporated aspects of the NTA proposal, however, the school needs to fully follow the NTA proposal, which is more thought out and won’t jeopardize people.