In-person learning: Zega making the right choice

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
Mrs. Allen’s Block 3 English class now has 13 students in the room five days per week.

By: Dylan DaCunha, Editor-in-Chief

Recently the Woodbridge Board of Education has decided to send in-person students back for a full five days of school. This action combined both hybrid learning groups. This was ultimately a good decision that has benefited all parties involved.

The plan for in-person learning

On April 2nd Superintendent Robert Zega’s plan was to have all schools “offer five days of instruction by the end of April.” Beforehand, those going to school in-person were divided into two groups alphabetically. One group would attend school on Monday and Tuesday. The school would be deep cleaned on Wednesday. Then the other group would return for instruction on Thursday and Friday.

Zega’s plan combined both groups for five days a week and has been going strong for almost a month now. As of May 18, there are 493 students back in Colonia High School for in-person learning five days per week. Each school in Woodbridge Township is on operating a case by case basis in regards to combining the cohorts and moving to five days per week. Woodbridge Township is a larger school district in central New Jersey comprised of 26 schools.

How it’s helped

This course of action provided students with an opportunity to not only return back to school, but to a normal way of life. Doing schoolwork online very much affected students not only academically, but mentally. The lack of an in-person teacher causes students to get distracted and not focus well. Looking at a screen for so long can also contribute to this too. Students in a busy household with siblings and pets may distract from learning. Zega mentioned this in his April 2nd video to Woodbridge Township parents as well. He noted that “the only cure…is to get them back in school and get them in person in front of their teachers.” 

Remote learning was taking a toll on students mentally too. Sophomore at Colonia High School Kara Mitch was happy with the Board of Education’s decision. She revealed that going back to school in-person has helped her mentally incredibly. She’s able to socialize with friends and faculty members. This has “improved her overall happiness” greatly. Online school has shown to increase anxiety and stress in students. They worry about things such as being on camera and struggling to keep up to date. She also stated that she is in fact less distracted at school and this has helped her academically, proving Zega right. 

Drawbacks for parents

Many parents and students may be skeptical about sending their children back to school five days a week. A big question asked is one regarding the cleanliness of the school and how effective disinfecting may be. Mitch thinks Colonia High is doing a great job of keeping everything clean. She revealed that the school “provides us [students]  with the proper materials needed to sanitize and disinfect our seats and work areas.” 

Zega attributed being able to return to five full days of in-person learning to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowering social distance guidelines from six to three feet in the younger grades. Also, the district’s partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health and JFK Medical Center in Edison. This alliance made it possible for all district staff members to be vaccinated if they chose to do so. Zega also made note of the district’s large purchase of several thousand desk shields. The combination of those three components made this possible according to the superintendent. Each school in the district is doing its part to ensure a safe learning environment for students. Hopefully, things can finally begin to return back to a state of normalcy.