The Students Have Spoken: Learning Models, Desk Shields, Masks, and Pandemic Changes

By Emma Cochran

Everyone knows that this school year has been different. It has been unpredictable, challenging, and controversial, and no one knows what is going to happen in the coming weeks and months. The Salmon was interested in what the students (and a few teachers) thought about the school year, specifically their views on the learning models and the pros and cons of each.

We asked 120 students (a few teachers took the survey too) a series of questions for this article. The results and some of their feedback is listed below.

Our main question asked participants whether they preferred regular learning, virtual learning or hybrid learning, and 45 percent said they favor a traditional 5-day school schedule. Forty percent said they preferred hybrid learning and 15 percent selected virtual learning. As COVID cases spike, the district said it is not currently being considering five-day instruction, even if students prefer it.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you prefer Hybrid or all Virtual learning?. Number of responses: 120 responses.

We also asked “If you could change one thing about our current situation, what would it be?” Respondents gave a variety of answers.

● “I would try to find a way to allow people to go four days if they wanted to. Virtual school can be damaging to us students both physically and mentally.”
● “To stop making it so stressful. Like not having live classes on all offline classes. Like not having a butt load of work for each class. Because when online, you don’t get in class time to do it so it’s almost like homework for every class.”
● “Reduce the school time for virtual learners. Technology can be damaging if used for too long (especially for 7 hours straight), so having to look at a computer screen and worry about work can be straining and disadvantageous.”
● “No school on Wednesdays.”
● A few said some variation of “Going all 5 days.”
● A few said some variation of “Get rid of desk shields.”
● “Have more time in my day to socialize and be a kid.”

A general theme was that people do not enjoy sitting in front of screens for so long, and that they wish they could socialize with people more, thought many understood that it isn’t possible currently.

We also asked about masks and how the SAMS community wears them. On a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the worst score, respondents were asked to rank how well SAMS has handled mask wearing. Nearly half of the survey takers gave SAMS a “1-3” score, which means many are wearing their masks correctly. On the other end of the spectrum, 15 percent gave a “7-10” score, indicating some believe SAMS could do better with masks. Approximately 35 percent of the respondents gave SAMS an average score.

Forms response chart. Question title: How often do you see people NOT wearing a mask properly?. Number of responses: 120 responses.

We also gathered some feedback about the desk shields. The question was: “What are your thoughts on using masks AND desk shields?”  Most people did not have positive responses about the shields, which add another layer of safety for coughs and sneezes. Here are a few of the responses:

  • “Wearing the masks is easy but the only mask break I get is during lunch so I wish we would get more mask breaks. The desk shields are annoying and too large. They consistently fall off the desks and they are hard to carry since they are so large.”
  • “The masks are understandable but the desk shields in places other than lunch are unnecessary in my opinion, masks do enough and we are sanitizing, if everyone keeps being respectful about this then we can get rid of the desk shields.”
  • “I think that wearing masks isn’t that bad but I don’t like desk shields.”
  • “I feel the desk shields only should be used during lunch. Otherwise they are useless.”
  • “My thoughts on wearing a mask and using desk shields are not that bad. I am fine with the masks, but the desk shields are not the best in my opinion. They are not that clear and are kinda hard to see through, they are also really weird to carry around. Also with both the masks and the desk shields, it is hard to talk to your friends and that’s not really that easy.”
  • “This is just my opinion, but I don’t think they are doing anything. The masks are all different and have weaknesses and you breathe in your own germs all day. When we’re done with school all the shields are all put on top of each other.”
  • “I understand the thought behind them, but sometimes I wish they could burn in a fiery car crash.”

The survey continued by asking respondents for some positives and negatives to the current situation. We asked them to tell us one positive and one negative, and there was a variety of answers. First, the positives:

  • “We are in school”
  • “People are washing their hands more than ever”
  • “Smaller class size”
  • “At least we are seeing the teachers in person”
  • “I get a short break from virtual learning”
  • “We get to go to school at least once a week and get out of our house.”
  • “Some days we can watch Netflix in between school.”

    Here are a few of the negatives that were reported:
  • “A lot of my friends are in the other cohort, so that sucks.”
  • “We can’t really talk to our friends.”
  • “My face gets really hot when I breathe.”
  • “The teachers don’t really pay enough attention to the virtual students.”
  • “No gym equipment can be used.”
  • “Everything but Netflix.”

Another question asked for some suggestions for the district.We asked “Do you think our situation could be improved?” Followed by, “If so, How?” A majority of respondents (47.5 percent) said the situation could be better. Another 44.2 percent said the district could “maybe” do better. Fewer than 10 percent (8.3 to be exact) said there was no way SASD could do better.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think that our situation could be improved?. Number of responses: 120 responses.
  • “At school I think we need mask breaks every so often, like going outside and getting to take our masks off or getting to go on a little walk around the school, because I think this is really stressful.”
  • “I feel that we could be more creative with the clubs and extracurricular activities and how to incorporate them back into school.”
  • “At school I think we need mask breaks every so often, like going outside and getting to take our masks off or getting to go on a little walk around the school, because I think this is really stressful.”
  • “I have spoken to many other students and most have similar feelings as me. If it is that bad, I think the district should take our opinions (as students) not just the parents’ opinions, into account.” 
  • “There is only so much you can do to prevent this disease, but I’ve always thought that at what point does this become too much? I still want to live my life.”
  •  “I am just really glad we can go back to school and see you all, thank you for that ability!”  

Finally, one respondent placed blame on society for not taking the pandemic seriously enough.

  • “If more people in the real world had complied, we could have been at school from the original start date.”

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