OPINION: Vote to resume in-person learning


While taking the necessary precautions, a return to in-person school is possible. Design by Mya Cummins.

Warren Van Nort, Guest Author

This piece was submitted by Warren Van Nort (12, MST), co-signed by 21 other Manual students.

I write this letter to Manual’s school board representatives, the Manual community and my only voice in the impending decision, to encourage you to vote to give students (and parents) the choice to go back to in-person learning. This vote would give students a chance to return to the school building, a return that was supported by over seventy percent of Manual students back in the fall.

Both the CDC and top health officials argue that schools can reopen safely without increasing community transmission of the virus. Additionally, with the vaccination of teachers and other employees — a vaccination that was prioritized for the very reason of returning to school — some of the most vulnerable in the school environment now have added protection against the virus. While I understand that this science will continue to be scrutinized and individualized arguments will continue to be made, I hope you respect student (and parent) choice. In doing so, you would honor the voices of your most important constituents; you would honor my voice.

Education does not thrive over a computer screen. The once content-rich, 90-minute blocks have been replaced with a tight 50-minutes, which barely gives us enough time to ask questions let alone cover a chapter in the textbook. Those of us in Advancement Placement (AP) classes suffer even more as we have no time to review missed concepts yet are set to endure the full-length exams issued by the College Board. This mismatch in end-of-year objectives has forced students to bear larger workloads in these classes, but the whole classroom environment has changed. Gone are the warm-ups, “Words of the Day” and other icebreaker activities that once served as a seamless bridge from lesson to lesson. Gone are the spontaneous class discussions that relate what we’re learning to the real world — there is no space for spontaneity over Google Meets. Gone are the days in which that one quiet student can walk up to the whiteboard and demonstrate their intellectual prowess; instead, they now shudder behind the mute button. Gone is the easy access to library resources, the space for students to form study groups, and the casual discussions with teachers that turn into a beautiful display of knowledge. 

And where education crumbles, the mental and physical health of students follows close behind. Just read the article written by a fellow Manual student, which details the mental strain students face every day. Aside from the obvious monotonous routine of staring into a computer screen the whole day, NTI has taken away the enjoyable moments of school. No more conversing with friends about football games during lunch. No more embarrassing Student of the Month celebrations for all to see. No more Male-Manual rivalry or even spirit weeks, filled with costume days and decorated halls. Even teachers are vulnerable, complaining of the lack of interaction with students as they are forced to enter the classroom with a field of circles. NTI has also returned students to their technology, which had been berated for years due to the toxic environment it provides for children. Constant reminders, due dates and announcements to keep track of as school follows us wherever we go, quite literally. This change from a consistent school schedule has caused a constant tug-of-war as we try to manage our schedules between school, jobs and extracurricular activities. Speaking of which, these stress-reducing activities have also been ripped from their replayable memories as interactions between club members have morphed into a lecture of announcements and to-dos.  

The final point I must make is for my fellow seniors; the seniors that I help represent as Class Vice President. Voting to give students the chance to go back means voting for the chance of graduation. This is a moment that we have all looked forward to for the past four years, a moment that symbolizes the hard work we have put into our education for the past twelve. Our siblings, parents and grandparents have spoken to their graduation, a significant, yet simple cap-toss that holds the heavyweight of high school memories. We want that moment and honestly, after the year we have just endured, we deserve it. We deserve to walk across that stage, strut our red-and-white, and show the next generation of students what it’s like to be successful JCPS students. 

So, when you go to vote at that all-important school board meeting, I hope you remember the voices of those you represent. I hope you remember my voice and honor it by voting to give students the choice to return to in-person learning.

Any Manual student that supports this piece and would like to co-sign the letter can contact Warren at [email protected].