By Anisha Parida
The switch from in-person education to online learning this past spring, has fostered numerous inquiries regarding what education for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year will look like. During a recent virtual Senate Education Committee hearing, Pedro Rivera, the current Pennsylvania Secretary of Education discussed what the Department of Education’s plans will look like for the next year: “We fully expect to come back to school in the fall…[the Education Department will] allow school districts to choose from multiple strategies” in order to abide by guidelines for social distancing. The return to school may signify the same back to school routine as years prior, or perhaps these past few months have inspired an entirely new education system to Manheim Township High School.
Prior to this meeting, Rivera had discussed the possibility that students would not return to in-person learning by this upcoming fall, but he now seems more hopeful to do so. Although nothing regarding the upcoming school year has been announced from Manheim Township, this spring semester of school has opened discussion among Township students on whether school can and should go back to the way it operated before the switch to online learning.
Graycie Pectol, a student who had already been taking a few of her classes online this year, expressed how she’s enjoyed the switch to online learning these past few months: “There’s not much difference between what I was already doing and what we are doing now. I like the schedule now because it allows you to have breaks in all of your classes. I don’t feel as stressed as I do when I have all my classes in one day every day.”
For some students, getting assigned classwork on certain days has benefited them much more than attempting to understand material from several different classes in one day. And as students claim to have a lot of their stress alleviated because of this switch, the question then becomes, should Manheim Township High School switch to block scheduling? Should we start school at a later time? Sophomore Kristen Bennet expressed how online school has affected her and gave insight as to whether she thinks our current education system should change. “I think possibly extending to a later start time should be considered in the future…[also] reducing the amount of classes in a day I think would decrease the amount of daily work students have… the reduced workload [from online school] has changed my stress level, and should be applied in the future education system,” she said.
Both block scheduling, a type of scheduling that splits up the classes a student has into two days while also making each class a longer period of time, and a later start time for school seem like options we should consider. According to the American Association of School Administers, only 30 percent of the country’s secondary schools use block scheduling. Students at Manheim Township, however, have been given a slight glimpse into the A/B block schedule school experience from online classes this past spring, which may stir up conversation about making the switch. The effects of this switch are both positive and negative, but it seems like something that should be looked into. A benefit of block scheduling is that it allows students to focus more on the classes they have for that day rather than rushing through seven different classes all in one day. Disadvantages, however, include lack of attentiveness because students will be sitting in the same class for an extended period of time.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. With students attempting to balance all of their school work and extracurricular activities, while maintaining a proper sleep schedule, starting at a later time seems like a favorable idea. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed how adolescents who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, suffer from depression, and even engage in harmful activities such as drugs and smoking. And while some students can manage to get adequate sleep during the school year, approximately 73 percent of high school students do not get enough sleep.
High school is a place for students to grow as individuals. They learn how to manage their time better and create a balance between the activities and people they love. But faculty can learn just as much from the students as students can from them. So, if students feel strongly about changing the current education system at Manheim Township, expressing their opinions may lead to change in our school.