By Colleen Meosky
The Williamsville Central School District announced on September 10 their plan to instruct all middle school and high school students completely remotely five days a week, regardless of which learning plan they previously chose. Acting Superintendent Dr. John McKenna explained that the hybrid and remote learning plans are not equitable and need to be reformed immediately, stating, “We need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.” All three Williamsville high schools are expected to start the Hyflex phase on October 26th, where we return to the Hybrid model but with some variations–the most important being that all students have a teacher.
This phase of the learning plan — which began on Tuesday, September 15 — means all East students will be offered the chance to take advanced courses and electives, unlike some of the district’s past learning models for remote students. Sophie Zhu planned to learn remotely and at first, she was worried about the district not providing these courses. After learning of the new learning plan, Zhu said, “Considering how probably most high school students, particularly upperclassmen, would have at least one AP or elective laying around in their schedule, it’s surely nice taking comfort in knowing that [remote students] will also now receive an ample education. Though this course disparity most likely would not have been a problem anyway if the full-remote plan was implemented from the start, it was a huge relief a few weeks ago knowing that I’d be able to learn and take on a regular school-year schedule. All in all, I’m very glad that our efforts were effective and that we now have full access to WCSD’s courses.”
Some students from the Williamsville Central School District gathered at the district office in protest on a Thursday night when the announcement was made, chanting, “Bring back school.” Many seniors are upset that they will not be able to spend some of their final year of high school in the building. One sophomore student responded to this saying, “I wouldn’t want to spend one half of my senior year attending Zoom classes, but it’s a freaking pandemic. Everyone is missing out on stuff right now.” For many, the prospect of attending these virtual classes can be troublesome. Elizabeth Crawford recognizes the district’s reasoning for making this decision, but that doesn’t mean she is looking forward to the formatting she will have. “Zoom classes and staying home… I don’t mind either, but I just don’t want to be on the computer from 8:10-2:45 or whenever. I personally liked how we had it before, with the zoom day and the independent workdays. I understand that this is a tough time, but I personally don’t see myself sitting in front of a screen and retaining information after the 5th of 6th class,” stated Crawford.
After much debate and many district Zoom meetings, students were starting to accept and adjust to the plan that aims to originally return East students to school safely on January 4th. Vihaan Majumdar reacted to this new model saying, “I think the new plan is better than the old one, because we’re safer and because we can get a better education with 5 days instructions instead of 2.5 days instruction and 2 days on our own. Obviously the entire process has been frustrating, with the scramble to get a plan and all, but I think this is the best plan for the education of the students and the safety of everyone.”
Dr. McKenna continues to provide daily video announcements to the public about the latest changes to the return to school plan, called Reset, Relaunch, Return. All high school hybrid students are now expected to return on October 26th, while fully remote students will participate via synchronized lessons. There are no longer classes on Wednesdays starting September 29th, but the Ally groups will still meet but at a new time 8:00-8:15 AM. There is also a new bell schedule with longer passing times and slightly shorter periods.
With all of these changes, Courtney Wagener might sum up most people’s feelings about it returning to school, “It’s definitely new and weird, but it’ll all be okay in the end.”