In-Person School During a Pandemic Is Still Better Than Virtual School

by Ibukun Owolabi

Opinion

October 26, 2020
Students enjoy some time together in BUA’s art studio. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

With schools globally having closed their doors in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, September 3 was the first time I saw the inside of a school in months. I’m an incoming freshman, and that made walking through the BUA halls feel all the more strange. It wasn’t my first time being a new student, but there was a level of unfamiliarity this year not present before: at least at schools in previous years, students could have a slight idea beforehand of what the environment would be like. The former sense of normalcy has all but disappeared.

Even though we’re already two months into the school year, the social experience is moving rather slowly for many students. In-person school is not normal school. The safety regulations, which include social distancing and wearing a mask, have hindered opportunities for students to make relationships and even participate in school activities. The protocols have caused socializing to come to somewhat of a halt. But that isn’t to say there are no advantages to interacting with others in person — even with the amazing virtual activities that BUA’s faculty has hosted, the spark that two people feel when meeting for the first time cannot be duplicated in any way. Although the old “shake their hand and introduce yourself” trick will not be an option for an indefinite amount of time, in-person school has made it easier to form connections with other students. 

Anais Kim ’24 wrote that she “[could] build relationships with peers and teachers” when going to school in person, which is a fundamental part of the “full experience” of attending school. While there is no doubt that students would prefer a normal year over a coronavirus-affected year, in-person school has a distinctive atmosphere in itself. In a show of resilience, students have adapted to the unprecedented situation. By taking a step into the gym that is now filled with desks spaced six feet apart, you will find a student body that is pursuing its desire to socialize in a safe manner. BUA has found a way to bring back sports and clubs, and while singing and instrument playing are not allowed in the building, musicians continue to pursue their passions safely in new ways. 

Another student, Therese Draper ’24, noted “being able to see friends and teachers” as a positive, and furthermore said, “it’s really hard… to focus online, and class discussions are much easier in person.” Students are noticing that being in person is even helpful with regard to academics. We no longer discuss the Iliad around seminar-style tables, but we have still found a way to make sure all the in-person students are heard. From what I’ve observed in class, the teachers are getting used to teaching both in-person and remote students at the same time. While the insightful teachers at BUA have been teaching for a number of years, they never before have had to simultaneously field questions from a student over Zoom and another ten students sitting in front of them, and so it is easier for students who are not physically present to be forgotten in an in-person class. BUA teachers are aware of this problem and are actively seeking better ways to incorporate remote students into in-person classes.

As a person who has some concerns about the coronavirus, I think an added benefit of in-person learning is that it ensures BUA students are frequently receiving testing in BU facilities. Though remote students may have a smaller chance of contracting the virus, they are uncertain about their COVID-19 status. I would still want to know if I had the coronavirus regardless of whether I were coming to BUA or staying at home everyday. 

More than ever before, we do not know what the future has in store for this chapter of our lives. But for now, we have found success in our in-person learning model, and we can say with certainty that we have managed to overcome the obstacles created by the pandemic as a school, and more generally, as a community.

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