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For the past centuries, if someone were to ask almost any student about their thoughts on school and the effect on their mental health, they would be swarmed with negative answers about how school causes them so much grief and how they wish school would just end. Nowadays though, the tables have turned. With the coronavirus causing the temporary pause to in-person education, many students are begging to go back to the building.
The Wake County school board voted March 22 at 6 p.m. to proceed with transitioning from our current state of Plan B into Plan A. This means that some students will return back to school with no rotations. Cohort rotations are the transition of repeatedly going into the school building for one week, then returning to virtual learning for two weeks. Cohorts will be combined, meaning there will be more students in the school building at once, and cohorts A, B, and C will no longer be assigned.
Masks will definitely be required to be worn by everyone. Social distancing will still be in effect, although the limits of staying six feet apart will be dropped to three feet apart according to the CDC.
“In middle and high schools, CDC also recommends students should be at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal and in communities where transmission is low, moderate, or substantial,” reported the CDC.
There are different returning times based on which time schedule a school is on: year round, traditional, modified, etc. All students on Plan A will return to in-person school after spring break.
“For students who are currently in Plan B and / or who have an IEP or 504 Plan and who do not choose Virtual Academy, Plan A instruction will begin: Monday, April 5 – For schools on modified calendars, early colleges, leadership academies and Knightdale High School, Thursday, April 8 – For schools on the traditional calendar, Wednesday, April 14 – For single-track calendar year-round schools,” according to the information provided on the Wake County Public School System website.
For students who have chosen to participate in Plan A, they will need to fill out forms provided by their school about returning. If the student does not wish to attend Plan A, they can choose to remain with virtual learning. The North Carolina government is not forcing students to come back to the building, however, they say it is a great leap forward into having things return back to normal.
This is where the mental health aspect comes into play. Questions arise as to whether coming back to school in person through Plan A will positively or negatively affect their mental health, as well as their peers’ mental health.
“Plan A is risky because going to school in person with no breaks could spread the virus more. Even though a vaccine is out and people are taking it, doesn’t mean covid is gone,” said Eve Blumenthal, freshman at Longleaf School of the Arts.
Some people did not agree with even using Plan B; jumping into Plan A is an even bigger step than Plan B which can provoke lots of disagreements and arguments.
“I honestly think it depends on the person. Some people actually grew as a person, since they were able to focus on themselves more. However, others may have toxic households which brings the person’s mental health down,” said Blumenthal.
It is all a matter of whether the risk of health is a worthy gamble to get things back to normal in return. Time is also in the picture; once people get vaccinated perhaps things can get rolling faster.
“I have noticed the mental health decline in myself and many friends… I think the health won’t fully recover but it will get better if we go in person. That would make it worth going back,” said Gabi Velasco, freshman at Needham B. Broughton High School.
Most students seemed to share the same common idea about some households having a toxic environment and that it would be best for those students to return to the building for their sake.
“School might be a safe place where they can get away from a toxic environment even if it’s just for a couple of hours… You never know what people go through or how their family is… being stuck at home with them isn’t always the best,” said Bria Blount, freshman at Southeast High School.
Another common idea shared between most students was that everyone has a different experience and outlook on the situation.
“For others, they might learn better at home and when they go back to school they aren’t doing as good. It really depends on the person and what they’re going through,” said Blount.
The reasoning behind why tons of students’ mental healths are dropping is said to be believed because of the everlasting communication with technology all day long. Even if a student had signed up for the past Plan B, they still would have gone through two weeks of virtual learning on a computer.
“You can clearly see how people’s mental health has dropped linked to the lack of interaction and constantly being face to face with nothing but a screen all day,” said Skylar Moore, freshman at Athens Drive High School.
One student shared her experience during plan B and how the situation affected her mentally.
“It was much easier to talk to people in person and you never really realize how many friends you only talk to in school until you don’t see them anymore,” said Mya Guerrero, freshman at Leesville Road High School.
This situation regarding the mental health drop from the coronavirus has not gone unnoticed; there are hundreds of thousands of informational articles being written about the topic.
”The ongoing stress, fear, grief, isolation and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic can wear anyone down, but many children and teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally. At the same time, many families have been separated from loved ones and caregivers, including grandparents, who may serve as vital sources of support,” according to an article provided by Healthy Children.org.
Students should know that they are not alone during these very odd times. Practically every student enrolled in schooling is going through the same situation. If a student is feeling like their mental health has taken a decline due to staying at home with little to no interaction, always being on a device all day, unhealthy household environments and so many more difficult situations, then maybe that student should look into signing up for Plan A by contacting their school.
Remaining virtual is equally a good option for some students. This option may be better for students or their family members who have preexisting health conditions. They should discuss this with their family before taking action to make sure they have decided which plan is best suited for them. However, they must choose between Plan A or virtual learning because Plan B will no longer be available.
Plan A is as close to in-person school before the disaster of the coronavirus as it gets right now. Do not forget that things will eventually all go back to normal, it is just a matter of time.
“The plan to bring grades 6-12 back to classrooms on a daily basis,” according to ABC 11.