Student Predictions for Virtual Learning

On November 9th, Friends Select School announced the upcoming transition to fully virtual learning beginning Monday, November 16th. Some students believe that the community is well-equipped to have a successful transition to iSelectLearning, and others share concerns for the health of the student body and the likelihood of a quick return to in-person school.

86 members of the Friends Select student body shared their views on hybrid and iSelectLearning. When surveyed, students had not yet heard the announcement of the end of hybrid learning. Only 22% of the group believed Friends Select would transition to fully virtual within the next one or two weeks, so this upcoming transition will prove to be a surprise for many. 
Forms response chart. Question title: How much longer do you think Friends Select will continue with hybrid learning before going completely virtual?. Number of responses: 86 responses.

Before the announcement, students had varying opinions on the actual safety of remaining in school. While the majority of students were unsure, 36% believed it was not safe to remain open, while 13% believed it was. 

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think it is safe for the school to remain open into the winter?. Number of responses: 86 responses.

Some students have low expectations for our return to hybrid learning in the 2020-2021 school year. Campbell Lee ‘23 believes FSS will remain in virtual learning “possibly for the remainder of the year.” Lily Brin ‘23 shares similar concerns, noting the confluence of spiking cases in Philadelphia and a few cases within the FSS community. Lewis Shaw ‘21 added that the upcoming flu season may create an unsafe school environment. 

Students believe that the school’s choice to close may stem from the dangers of holiday traditions such as traveling or seeing family. Sami Giganti ‘23 says a return to hybrid learning will “depend on how safe everyone is being in their personal lives.” The school clearly shared this opinion in their announcement from two weeks ago, canceling in-person classes in the first two weeks following winter break. 

Savannah Williams ‘22 thinks that the holiday season may be dangerous outside of school as well. “I don’t think it’s safe because people usually enjoy spending family time. Many will travel, so it’s not really safe to reconvene in one place, even though I would hope everyone takes the proper safety precautions,” she says. 

Some also worry that the carelessness of their peers will prevent a speedy return to school. Kayla Alston ‘22 believes that “people have forgotten about the fact that we are still in a pandemic… and have become very selfish with their actions,” leading to a rise in local cases. “They’ve decided that their loneliness is more important than hundreds of thousands of people dying… I think it’s incredibly selfish. They are just being ignorant,” she says. Kayla is especially concerned about the dangers of parties, and how easily they enable the spread of Covid-19.

Lily also worries that “people don’t truthfully fill out the Ruvna.” Either people will all have to stay home because of minor symptoms, or people will attend school thinking their symptoms are minor when they have actually contracted Covid-19. As students attend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years parties, Lily believes that “[school] just won’t work.”

40% of surveyed students expect that the upcoming switch to virtual learning will be relatively easy, but 9% anticipate that there will be a difficult and complicated transition. 19% believe virtual learning will look very similar to that of last year, and 17% believe it will look different. 

Beatrix Verstagen ‘24 and Hayden Pastor ‘23 both believe this change will be relatively smooth. “We’re all used to the ups and downs of virtual learning… and we already know what it’s like,” says Beatrix. Patrick Ryan ‘24 agrees, noting that the first three virtual weeks at the beginning of this school year have set a tone for successful virtual learning in the coming months. 

Hayden Pastor ‘23 prefers virtual and is feeling “neutral” about the upcoming shift. “I have been learning a sufficient amount of information from iSelectLearning and I haven’t really had any problems with it,” he says. He has named in-person learning as “iSelectLearning with a commute,” due to how many students are required to sign into Zoom regardless of their learning location. He thinks that the transition will go smoothly, and teachers are prepared. He also adds that many of his friends are excited for the shift.

Scarlett Schneider ‘24 is “in-between” about the switch. She notes that she will miss her friends, but prefers to be “in the safety of her own home.” She adds that the transition will be smooth as well: “we’ve already done it, so I don’t think it will be hard to go back.”

Annie Rupertus ‘21 thinks that the school “definitely made the right call, since [it] had already used the virtual model earlier this year. I am expecting the transition to be very smooth.” She says that she will miss being able to interact with her friends, but it is “obviously the safest for the community” to close. She also prefers some aspects of virtual over hybrid, such as more hours for sleep and increased productivity from home.

Rachel Luce ‘21 says that there are some pros to an entirely virtual class. It will reduce some of the technical troubles and allow her to have a closer view of the screen. She also will no longer be the only in-person student in her Mandarin class. However, she will miss “the sense of community and class discussions.”

Although she believes there will be a smooth transition, Sami expects that iSelectLearning “will be mentally draining for some kids who do better in person.” Inés Wild ‘24 adds that virtual learning will take a toll on students’ mental and physical health. 

In September, Yianna Ljachin ‘22 experienced taxing effects on her health from excessive required screen time.“When I am on the computer for so long, I also don’t get a good night’s sleep and have a hard time waking up,” she says.

Sophie Saint-Cyr ‘22 observes mental health tolls as well. “So many people in our school have some form of mental illness, and keeping kids staring at their computers all day without having the option to go outside because of the weather is literally asking students to fall into a really deep and dark place,” she says

Lucy Doss ‘21 feels that she is “not the best version of [herself] as a student or as a person when we are all virtual.” Though it will be a tough adjustment for Lucy, she believes that virtual learning “is what it is, and it will have to work.”

With the shift to iSelectLearning, students feel a loss beyond in-person classes. Liv Coleman ‘21 is disappointed by the absence of beloved FSS holiday traditions such as hallway decorations and the Holiday Sing. “I am going to miss out on those things for my last year,” she notes.

Quinn Binenbaum ‘21 shares a final note to the teachers upon entering completely virtual learning: “Please, oh please, let the teachers ease up on work — it’s way too much, considering everything going on in life right now.”