SWR’s Ability to Provide In-Person Education Beneficial to Many

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Avery Hillis and her sister, Grace.

Avery Hillis, Staff Writer

The role of education amidst the current global pandemic of the past year is one that has been interpreted in an unimaginable amount of ways. Constantly circulating decisions in regard to in-person vs. virtual classes have divided a once somewhat unified train of thought about youth education. I personally have had the opportunity to experience just about every schooling option available during this pandemic. To me, it has become incredibly obvious the importance of getting children back into in-person education.

Over the past year, I have experienced fully online, hybrid-scheduled, and fully in-person classes. My family has recently moved from Riverhead to Shoreham, and the contrast in education systems has been nothing short of mind-blowing. From the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 to this past January 2021, my peers and I at the Riverhead Central School District were assigned nothing but passive assignments to complete daily. We were not being taught by our teachers, and were simply expected to learn for ourselves. There were no zoom classes, no videos from our teachers… in the simplest terms, we were given worksheet after worksheet with a few YouTube videos for months. This proved detrimental to my learning abilities and that of my peers as well.

In an interview with current Riverhead High School senior, Emma Russell, she states, “For the entire end of last year there was no live teaching or order to any of it. I had teachers that completely stopped teaching. This fall we had split cohorts, but I opted to stay fully virtual for safety reasons. It was not until January that we started live instruction for those at home.” This environment was incredibly difficult to navigate while students attempt to stay motivated and continue doing well in their studies. She continues to say, “It’s been pretty hard keeping good routines and continuing to learn to my fullest potential.”

The concept of a routine schooling system, in itself, is incredibly vital to youth learning, and while Riverhead may not have been able to supply this to their students for the majority of the pandemic, the SWR school district was able to go in a different direction and return their students to five days per week, in-person classes. When my family moved to Shoreham, I was given the option to transfer in my senior year, and for routine and social reasons alone, this seemed like a no-brainer. Being able to attend school in a somewhat normal manner these past few months has been so beneficial to my mental health, and had a similar effect on many others.

My sister Grace Hillis, a current freshman at SWR High School, in regards to our recent transfer says, “I feel like I needed the structured schedule in my life again, and I feel more motivated to learn because I am finally being taught again.” Yet another example of the importance of structure that in-person classes provide for students in their studies. Grace continues on to explain that during her time mid-pandemic at Riverhead Central School District, “It felt like there was nothing happening in my life and I was just sitting at home staring at the computer. I couldn’t get into contact with my teachers and the work was so hard because I wasn’t taught how to do it. I was just finding the answers online to get by, not learning.” These words are the unfortunate reality of many students throughout this pandemic worldwide.

With constant access to online information and no motivation to succeed in their studies, students find themselves simply attempting to “get by” using online answers and help from friends rather than genuinely learning, as they did when they were in school five days per week. Once again, SWR pushed themselves ahead of the curve, eliminated these struggles almost completely, and their students could not be more grateful.

Grace says, “I’m happy we moved to SWR, and I feel so much better going to school, getting to meet new people, and actually learning for once. It just feels a lot more normal.” This student mindset is one that is so evident throughout the SWR school district. We are so grateful to be part of a community that was able to make this happen for their students for, as I personally know very well, schools just a district or two over are struggling to keep school spirit alive.