Con: We should not return to in person learning

Jackson Rickert, Editor-In-Chief

It’s no secret that remote learning has been a challenge. Between endless zoom meetings, technical difficulties and the lack of human contact, it’s been a trying few months, let alone year. In the wake of these problems, many have been urging the Lake Oswego School District to return to in-person learning in hopes of instilling a sense of pseudo normalcy. But while in-person learning may be the ideal method of education, the state of the pandemic simply does not allow it.

Let’s look at the elephant in the room: Covid-19. Cases are on the rise, at an all-time high actually. Nationwide we’re at 14.6 million cases, with 281,000 deaths. Though news of potential vaccines has bolstered public morale over the past few weeks, the fact of the matter is that the pandemic is the worst it has ever been. Even in Oregon, which has handled Covid fairly well and has had relatively few cases, is seeing a huge surge. At the end of November, test positivity rates per day were standing at around 17 percent with about 1300 new cases per week and around 12 deaths every seven days. These are all sharp increases when compared to the early stages of the pandemic, or even when contrasted with the rates a few months ago. The fact of the matter is that Covid-19 is ravaging the nation, even Oregon.

In late October, Governor Brown relaxed regulations to make it easier for schools to reopen, lowering the number of infections per 100,000 residents in a county needed before returning to in-person class. To go back to in-person learning, Clackamas County would need a positivity rate of or below 5 percent, with only 50 cases per 100,000 residents in a given two week period. According to Clackamas County’s own website, our numbers are sitting at around 200 plus infections per 100,000 with a rate of well over 10 percent. 

Setting aside, for a moment, the fact that we are nowhere near meeting the requirements for in-person learning, how would we even do it? The official plan is a hybrid learning system in which half the school attends in-person in the morning and spends the afternoon learning remotely. The other half of the school would have this schedule switched. Classes would presumably be smaller, and face masks and social distancing would also need to be implemented. 

If that is to be the case, is there even really a benefit to going back in person? There would still be little social interaction, given the social distancing and small class sizes. The distancing and the partial time online would also make it difficult to interact with teachers and to do classroom activities. While certainly an improvement, is it really a big enough change to provoke the risk of illness or death for the students and staff of the district? I don’t think so.

Even with all of these precautions, going back to in-person learning is projected by the county to increase Covid-19 cases. This is not just some statistic, these are teachers and children that we are considering sacrificing for a minimal step towards normalcy. The reality is that, as hard as it is to accept, the only way to go back to normal is to follow state protocol and ride the pandemic out. A return to in-person learning will only delay that.