Nfld. & Labrador·Opinion

Let students like me decide whether to do online or in-person classes

The hybrid model that Newfoundland and Labrador officials selected for high school students for the rest of the school year is not working, argues Grade 10 student Jake Thompson.

The hybrid model chosen for the rest of the school year simply is not working

Jake Thompson is a student at Waterford Valley High School in St. John's. (Mike Moore/CBC)

This column is an opinion by Jake Thompson, a high school student in St. John's. For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Just a few short months ago, the number of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador was on the rise, due to an outbreak in the St. John's and Mount Pearl area. All students in our education system were sent home, and told that Scenario 3 of the Department of Education's plan would be coming into effect.

Scenario 3 states that all students would be learning virtually from their homes, while trying to stay on a normal schedule depending on the grade level, school and needs of each individual student.

When case numbers started to drop again, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald recommended that students could safely begin to return to their classrooms, starting with the kindergarten to Grade 9 groups who made a full return to in-person learning shortly before Easter break.

High school students, however, were left in the dark as to when we would have the chance to get out of our bedrooms and back to our desks.

We waited, and waited some more, for an update to come.

Finally, a few days before the end of our Easter break, Education Minister Tom Osborne presented the plan in which students in grades 10 through 12 would be able to come back to in-person learning — not full time, but on a blended model.

From the start, I was skeptical the plan would go over as smoothly as government and school board officials explained.

Education Minister Tom Osborne laid out details this spring for a blended model for high school students. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

The student body of each high school was divided into two groups, by alphabetical order of surnames. In my school, Group A was composed of students' last names that started with A through K while Group B was L through Z.

Group A would be physically in school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then on the alternating days they would be required to take part in virtual learning by the way of Google Classroom and its host of sister applications. They would do this from their homes while Group B would attend class in person. Each week the schedule would flip so that all students would have a combination of half in-school time and half online.

Last week, a newsletter sent out by the acting vice-principal of my school said we would continue with this method for the remainder of the year — and that upset me. Sure, everyone has a different opinion. This blended model may very well work for some students, but not for me. I tend to learn and do tasks a lot more efficiently when I'm on a well-planned schedule, but with this blended model, it's very difficult to get into any kind of routine or maintain any structure.

Every day is different. We are still receiving and are expected to do the same workload, but it's nearly impossible to keep track of things. One day we are in our classrooms getting a proper education, and then the next day we are home, trying to keep up with a math lesson as the teacher is divided in directing their attention to both the students physically in front of them in the classroom and those who are online in the virtual classroom.

Grades are falling

After a couple of conversations with some friends and classmates, I learned that I am not the only one struggling with this hybrid model.

Thompson says some students are flourishing with in-person learning, while others thrive with online learning. He says he doesn't know anyone who prefers the hybrid model. (Mike Moore/CBC)

Grades are falling simply because of the reason that our teachers don't have the proper resources or power to efficiently teach students who are not actually sitting in front of them. On some days that I have online learning, the teachers don't even bother trying to start a new topic or project because they believe it's hopeless to do so with two separate groups.

This leaves us with valuable class time thrown out the window simply because the government and school board did not take enough input from students or school teachers and administrators while making the plans for these learning scenarios.

High school is one of the hardest times of a person's life, so why not take some of the stress away by letting us choose the method of learning that works best for us?

What would be my suggestion? Let our students decide whether to do online or in-person classes. This is the current model that some school districts in other parts of Canada and the United States have picked up.

High school is one of the hardest times of a person's life, so why not take some of the stress away by letting us choose the method of learning that works best for us? If the end goal is to educate us so that we are able to move up in the world after we graduate and represent our province, why should we be forced to continue something that is stopping us from doing just that?

It's clear that some students do better online while others do better with in-person classes. So why not have teachers who are solely hired to do online teaching while also having other teachers with the role of teaching fully in the classroom?

Maybe it's a budget thing, but is it worth the risk?

We need to let our students have the option to be able to make this choice before the damage is irreversible.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Jake Thompson


Jake Thompson is a high school student at Waterford Valley High in St. John's. He is an active member of the local arts scene with his many puppetry projects.

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