2021-2022 school year: In-person or virtual?

Woottons+entrance+is+marked+with+places+for+students+to+stand%2C+but+there+is+hope+these+guidelines+wont+be+necessary+next+year.

Photo by Josh Freedman

Wootton’s entrance is marked with places for students to stand, but there is hope these guidelines won’t be necessary next year.

The current school year has been a unique experience for all students and staff. With the majority of the year spent on Zoom, students have recently begun a hybrid of in-person learning. The introduction of in-person school has caused students, teachers and parents to wonder if students will be returning to school next year. 

Despite the next school year being a summer away, the county has already discussed what it may look like. On Apr. 21, the county announced that they were planning for an entirely in-person year, in which students attend five days a week. The county reassured citizens that they would continue to work with health officials to ensure a safe return to school. “Continued improvements in public health conditions, an increase in vaccinations and a relaxation of restrictions will allow for more students in-person and the resumption of typical in-person activities and instruction,” Montgomery County Public Schools said in a statement. 

In addition to planning for in-person school, the county has also announced the creation of a virtual learning academy. The academy, which will commence at the start of the upcoming academic year, will allow students from pre-K to 12th grade to enroll in classes virtually. To qualify, students must apply directly to the program. The application became available on May 17, and acceptances are predicted to be sent out in June or July. 

Another critical aspect in the return to school is vaccination. As of May 10, all students are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are not available to people under the age of 18. Despite there only being one approved vaccine for this age group, there are hopes that the vast majority of students and people will be vaccinated and herd immunity will be a possibility by the end of the summer. “Our goal by July 4 is to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated,” President Joe Biden said. 

Besides the increase in vaccination, the number of COVID-19 cases has also declined. Montgomery County currently has a positivity rate of 1.9%, which is down from January’s positivity rate of around 7%.

I am certainly most excited to just get back to a regular school return like any other year as well.”

— Maya Seiler

While the power to decide whether or not students return to school lies mainly in the hands of the county, students have some say as to whether or not they chose to attend in person or stay virtual in the academy. For some students, the chance to attend in-person five days a week is exciting and offers them the opportunity to participate in normal high school activities like a homecoming. However, other students enjoyed the freedom virtual school offers. Virtual school allows for longer lunch periods, shorter days, and the ability to stay home. “I am certainly most excited to just get back to a regular school return like any other year as well,” junior Maya Seiler said.