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Bermudian Students and Parents Speak Out about Reopening Decisions

Students and parents of Bermudian Springs School District addressed the school board on Tuesday evening, with some speaking for and others against restoring the five-day school schedule. No board action was taken related to the issue.

Several people mentioned a survey recently completed by many of the students and teachers in which a majority said they preferred to remain on a hybrid schedule. At the meeting nearly twice as many speakers pushed for returning than advocated for continuing the hybrid model.

Some proponents of immediately reopening the schools said that they suspect late mornings and more time for video games are key motivations for those who support the hybrid schedule.

Steve Gautsch said technological issues have made learning from home problematic, as students struggle with issues from notification problems to slow screen responses. He said issues with Canvas have made it difficult for students to find everything they need and made suggestions to the board. He asked that the schools reopen with a regular schedule.

Stacia Talkington said she switched her four children’s enrollment from Bermudian Springs to cyber school due to a difference in quality and for the ability for them to receive consistent live instruction.

“I pray that in the fall we can return to school as normal,” she said. “My kids are getting an excellent education, but they are missing out on the social element that face-to-face school provides. I am well aware that and I know that that is a struggle for them, particularly the older kids. I would also plead with you to take a look at the hybrid model, if that’s a concern that our kids aren’t being prepared for time management and what college might look like, then I would suggest that we look at that for the future.”

“The reasons could be anything from sleeping in to resignation,” said Lori Snyder, a parent of two high school students. “I understand that returning them this late in the year may not make sense to some. But if it really wasn’t a consideration, why was it discussed as if it was? Entertaining the idea of even May would not be too late. And if not now, then when is there an urgency?”

Snyder also questioned mask requirements. “Our society is so fixated on COVID edicts that it forgets to be human,” she said.

Isaac Talkington said he was a Bermudian student until 9th grade but switched to cyber school this year. He said he wants to return to school in the fall for his junior year on a normal schedule and without masks. He feels the isolation is more harmful than the risks.

Others opposed fully reopening the schools, citing issues with mask compliance among the student body, fears of spreading the disease to their family or community, and disrupting the current schedule.

Molly Karam, freshman class president and the student who organized the survey, advocated for remaining on a hybrid schedule.

The survey had a participation rate of about 70 percent of students and about 80 percent of teachers, Karam said. Of those, about 60 percent of students and about 70 percent of teachers wanted to remain on a hybrid schedule.

“This is so important to note simply because we’re the ones going back to school, and we’re the ones who will be on the front lines,” Karam said.

Some also addressed the criticism about developing lazy or unsustainable habits.

Karam said that she does not believe students can properly distance in the high school, or that the school could enforce restrictions.

“I have personally lost three family members to COVID,” she said. “I have seen what this virus can do to people. I would not wish this on any family, especially our Bermudian family.”

Greta Hailey, a freshman, urged the school to maintain the hybrid schedule to keep the Bermudian community safe. Noting that othoer schools may return to more normal schedules, Hailey asked the board to consider the district’s situation rather than simply copying others’ solutions.

“I want to also make it very clear that I do not like the hybrid schedule because I like to sleep in,” Hailey said. “I like it because I get to be on my own time during a stressful situation and it helps me focus on my schoolwork and myself, and not stress over so many other things.”

Chris Young, a parent of two Bermudian high school students, also wanted to keep a hybrid schedule.

Young said that while he agreed hybrid school wasn’t “the most ideal way of learning,” the district was looking at a significant issue that “requires a global perspective.”

He noted that over 62 percent of the students are involved in extracurricular activities, with many children in social activities such as athletics and theater.

“What I see there is pushing through and finding those social things that can still try and manifest themselves,” Young said. Young said his children participated in sports. “They were successful, and the main reason they were successful is because of the protocols that went into place and because the hybrid model was allowed to continue.”

Young also complimented students who spoke for both sides.

“I think it’s outstanding that we have the students both for and against this speaking on their behalves,” Young said. “That shows incredible diligence. It shows incredible respect. It shows incredible virtue in all of their characters, so I think that’s something that should be commended. Healthy debate is good.”

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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