Students weigh in: distance learning versus brick-and-mortar


Kaysa Flemk-Joli

Jupiter High administrators and custodians set up one-way hallways to minimize crowding during COVID-19.

Palm Beach County School District students, along with their families, need to make a choice about how to learn for the remainder of the semester. They need to decide whether to learn virtually or in-person by Oct. 14.

With the decision looming, students must weigh the pros and cons of their choice.

“All of my teachers and students in my classes have followed the safety precautions pretty heavily. There was an occasional time where a student or teacher will just pull their mask down for a second or two to drink water which is understandable,” Eleanor Willis, a Jupiter High sophomore, said.

Jupiter High teachers and students are taking an abundance of precautions. They are wearing masks, safely distancing themselves and wiping down surfaces at the end of each class period.

“Every teacher that I have is doing the best job with masks and staying away from the students. Some of my teachers even have plexiglass and wear a mask behind it. They make me feel comfortable; they always have wipes to clean, hand sanitizer, and any other products to keep me safe,” Aspen Inouye, a Jupiter High senior, said.

Although in-class precautions are taken regularly, staying six feet apart becomes a challenge when students are in the hallways and other high-traffic areas. To minimize crowding, Jupiter High set up one-way hallways and put stickers on the ground in the car line and bus loop for students to stand on to safely distance.

“During dismissal…there’s really not enough room for everyone to spread out in the car lines and bus loops. On buses, some bus drivers want students two to a seat, which I’m surprised hasn’t been addressed yet,” Kierstyn Fisher, a Jupiter High sophomore, said.

Masks are required at all times except when eating breakfast and lunch.

“My teachers have pretty much followed all safety precautions, which has not really affected my learning experience. Students have been following precautions in class, but it doesn’t do much good when we…eat lunch [in the courtyard] without masks on,” Victoria Verity, a Jupiter High junior, said.

Besides safety, learning is the largest factor in whether students are choosing to return to school or stay at home.

“I’ve gotten more out of classes in the actual classroom compared to looking at a computer screen all day,” Fisher said. “Additionally, I’ve been able to do a lot in the Student Government Association that I wouldn’t be able to do online.” 

Students attending brick-and-mortar tend to agree that school is easiest in person.

My understanding of the lessons and topics has definitely benefited more since being back in person,” Kimberly Owens-Asaro, a Jupiter High junior, said, “I feel you understand more and are focused compared to your house which is full of distractions. I felt it was hard to talk to your teachers and classmates on a video chat compared to being in school.”

Select students have even reported a direct improvement in their grades.

“It’s hard enough for me to keep my focus in classes, so online was not helping it and just killing my grades,” Alissa Cohen, a Jupiter High junior, said. Cohen added that her “focus and grades are starting to improve again.”

However, students learning virtually say they work better in the comfort of their own home.

“My grades have been better, and I am able to accomplish more work,” Steven Dunlap, a Jupiter High junior, who has opted to stay home, said.

In addition to academics, students weigh in on the social aspects of online learning versus brick-and-mortar. Some say they are able to be more social and develop better relationships with their peers and teachers in brick-and-mortar.

“I feel more social and closer to my peers and my teachers. I think it’s important to have a good relationship with your teachers and to build yourself up with your peers and make new friends. My understanding of the lessons and topics has definitely benefited more since being back in person,” Verity said.

It’s important to note that virtual students are receiving the same education as they would at brick-and-mortar.

“I am now choosing distance learning for several reasons. One being I do not like how the school has one-way hallways, and I do not like the masks,” Victoria Voorhees, a Jupiter High junior, said. 

Voorhees recently switched back to distance learning from brick-and-mortar.

“Learning online I feel is the same exact thing, and there can be pros and cons to it, like not paying attention, but at the moment it feels safer to stay outside of the school,” Voorhees said.

Voorhees is not the only student who feels brick-and-mortar is the same as distance learning, but with a mask and fewer hours of sleep.

“Physical school is basically online school, at school,” Christopher Sigman, a Jupiter High junior, said. “I don’t want to carry around a Chromebook and charger wherever I go.”

One highlight of virtual school is waking up later in the morning.

“I preferred waking up at 7 a.m. over waking up at 5:30 a.m. and getting ready to ride the bus,” Verity said. “I don’t get enough sleep now.”

Another factor that may be the difference between classroom learning and home learning is masks. 

“I’ve gotten used to it; it doesn’t bother me whatsoever,” Krystal Dunteman, a Jupiter High junior, said. 

While masks do not bother all students, some say it’s an uncomfortable part of in-person learning.

“I don’t like having to wear the mask. It’s hard to talk in class,” Owens-Asaro said, “but overall, I think it’s going good.”

Deciding to go back or stay home is a matter of personal preference. Those with issues focusing in class will gravitate towards brick-and-mortar, whereas those who prefer the comfort of their home or are worried about the threat of COVID-19 will opt to stay home for the semester. As of now, there is no right or wrong answer. 

The decision to “Make Your Choice” for brick-and-mortar or distance learning can be found as a tile on your district portal.