As Covid-19 cases surge across the Naperville area, students at Naperville North are concerned that the district will transition to remote learning. While the district is monitoring the surge, no such decision has been made.
“We are going to stay in-person as long as it is safe to do so,” Alex Mayster, the district’s Executive Director of Communications, said.
At the city level, active cases are up to 4,810 as of Monday. The data for the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 from the school district’s Covid-19 dashboard shows 79 positive cases and 129 quarantines at North.
After the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the closure of all District 203 schools in March of 2020, the district implemented the use of remote learning and online instruction in schools for the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year and transitioned into a hybrid schedule for the second semester. Many students fear that this form of learning may once again become a reality if cases continue to rise.
Katherine Mayer, a sophomore at NNHS, fears that a return to online learning may make it difficult for students to keep track of coursework and limit comprehension of class content.
“My biggest concerns would be not keeping up with classwork and not actually learning anything like the last time we did remote learning,” Mayer said.
Some students also fear that a return to learning at home may prompt others to revert back to old habits, such as skipping class or letting distractions inhibit their learning. Ava Goode, a sophomore at NNHS, explained that these habits may take away from overall learning.
“I know a lot of students won’t go to Zoom classes or won’t pay attention, so we probably won’t get as great of an experience when learning,” Goode said.
Online learning presents social challenges too. Julia Fitzgerald, a junior at North, explained why interacting with classmates online simply isn’t the same as in being in person.
“During in-person school, I am able to see my friends in the mornings and during lunch but during online school, there is almost no social interaction with my classmates and friends, and if there is it is over a computer screen,” Fitzgerald said.
Especially for freshmen, it could be hard to make the transition back to online school. The last time they experienced it, they were in 8th grade.
“I don’t think online classes would be quite what they were in middle school,” freshman Ariana Kumar said. “All I’ve ever known during high school is in-person learning, so that would probably be a really tough transition for me.”
The dramatic surge in confirmed cases in both Illinois and Naperville follows a national trend of a sharp increase in cases across the United States following the emergence of a new variant of the virus: Omicron. Nationally, there has been a 215% increase in confirmed cases in the past 14 days, and a 82% increase in hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still unsure as to whether the Omicron variant is less deadly than previous variants, but it is proven to be more transmissible, which may account for the dramatic rise in cases.
Some experts have predicted a peak in cases in January followed by a rapid decline. But for now, numbers are high.
One critical factor in whether or not in-person classes shut down is the efficacy of safety measures– masks, social distancing, etc.
“I feel relatively safe in school,” senior Dylan Schmit said. “There’s all the omicron stuff, but I think the school’s doing at least an okay job with the safety measures.”
Students don’t always follow masking guidelines, though, causing some to feel unsafe in school.
“I feel like in my circle, around my friends, I’m pretty safe from the virus. But within North as a whole, I see people without their masks on and I do not feel safe in those environments,” freshman Logan Dahn said.
The coming few days and weeks are uncertain, and all students can do is wait and watch for updates from district administrators.
“I think generally, people just don’t want to go back online. But if it has to happen, it has to happen, right?” Schmit said.