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Middle school student: All should return to in-person learning, if possible | READER COMMENTARY

Protesters wanting schools reopened gather around a speaker during a rally outside the Howard County Public School System offices on Thursday, Oct. 22.
Protesters wanting schools reopened gather around a speaker during a rally outside the Howard County Public School System offices on Thursday, Oct. 22. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

I am an eighth grader at a private Catholic school in Linthicum. As I write this, it has been 58 days of wearing masks and practicing social-distancing, all while trying to learn and prepare for high school. I am one of the in-person students at my school. They are also offering a virtual learning option. While at first I was almost overly anxious about going back, now I am extraordinarily grateful for having been given the opportunity to go back into the building (”Maryland should stick with virtual learning — for now,” Nov. 30).

Online learning in the spring was awful for me. I had a hard time focusing and doing my work. There was no routine and I wasn’t able to see my friends or ask questions. I had to go online for two days this year, and it didn’t feel like actual school. I missed so much work, partly because I didn’t have my books, but also because I didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t ask the in-depth questions I needed to, as it is hard for teachers to answer such questions through a screen. While I understand that some people don’t feel comfortable going back into school buildings or they can’t due to underlying medical conditions they or someone who lives with them have, I think everyone who feels comfortable, or can, should.

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Looking back and picturing what online learning would have looked like, I can’t imagine that I would be doing as well as I am now. Writing on paper and having all my books right there in front of me helps more than you can imagine. The schools also have taken all of these precautions such as staying 6 feet apart, wearing our masks unless we are eating or we are outside and able to spread out to take them off. My school got plexiglass shields for our desks, stickers to mark 6 feet in the hallways, all electronic components in the bathrooms, and no-touch water-filling stations.

We may not be switching for our classes, but school still feels like school. I have the opportunity to talk to and see my friends in person every day, although we have to stay spread out. I still have the same problems to complain about at the end of the day: about how much homework we received or how I totally bombed the test we took in math. When the whole world seems to have been upended, it’s nice to know that some things are constant, even if those things are getting up at normal time and doing work.

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I personally think that if you have the opportunity to open up the public schools, you should. Kids my age need to interact face-to-face, not through a screen. Social interaction is incredibly important for children, and haven’t kids been isolated long enough? Mental health is also a factor in this and seeing friends could help many kids who will be able to take a break from worrying and laugh. They can talk to friends who might be going through the same struggles and problems. Many children have been going to school since they were 4 years old, nearly all children since they were 5. Everyone is talking about how we need to try to create a sense of normalcy for the kids during the pandemic, and isn’t school one of the best ways to do just that?

Shae Flynn, Glen Burnie

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