Legislation forces 100 percent in-person learning, creates uncertainty

Crunch time: Language Arts teacher Joseph Rankin sits at his desk, curriculum planning for his 100 percent online option.

By Sam Barnes

The bill SSB 1064 was officially signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds yesterday, Jan. 28; this will cause Bettendorf High School to transition into only two instructional options: 100 percent in-person, or 100 percent online. The bill requires the 100 percent in-person option to be implemented no later than Feb. 15 for all Iowa schools. This has and many students and educators voicing concerns.

“I think it’s an okay prospect that we’re going back, but I don’t think they should be rushing it as they are,” sophomore Loukia Constantinides said.

Constantinides isn’t the only student who thinks the school shouldn’t be forced into rushing the return to 100 percent in-person learning. Junior Tamanna Kapoor shared a similar viewpoint.

“I’m definitely skeptical about it,” said Kapoor. “It really shouldn’t be rushed, especially with the number of cases.”

And it’s not just students. Many teachers have worries with teaching in an all-in-person setting, specifically because many classrooms are not large enough to provide proper social distance measures. Christina Burroughs of the social studies department was concerned for the safety of her students.

“I’m very worried. I have large classes and I don’t think it will be possible for me to social distance my students,” said Burroughs.

The high school is doing what it can to reassure teachers by providing all district staff with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine later this year and implementing additional sanitation measures. However, there is no promise that social distancing guidelines will be able to be met in classrooms, which will likely alarm many. Sophomore Ahlivya Hill was skeptical at first, but believes the school is doing its best.

“It should be just fine if we take the proper precautions,” Hill said.

Principal Joy Kelly is concerned about the transition, but is taking whatever steps possible to keep staff and students safe.

“Apart from coronavirus I always worry about the health and safety of students and staff. Educators across the country have been put in a very difficult position. As important as this job is, they're really important somewhere else: at home. Everything I can do to make sure they're safe and healthy is of the utmost importance,” said Kelly.

However, there are many people who see both sides of the situation. Language Arts teacher Joseph Rankin is cautiously optimistic about going back. He referenced the relative success of North Scott’s fully in-person learning model but acknowledged the dangers it could pose.

“Besides a two week gap [North Scott was] back fully in person. So we can’t say it won’t work, even with our closest neighbors,” said Rankin.

“I think it could be a good thing and a bad thing,” said sophomore Luka Konavalov. “People should definitely have the option to do it because some people have problems with getting to school every other day. I think it’s just good to have the option to go everyday.”

President of the Bettendorf Education Association, Mary Heeringa, emphasized what seems to be a common sentiment among those at the high school.

“Everybody’s tired of this, everyone wants this to be over, but it’s just not,” said Heeringa. “And so we just have to keep doing what we can to keep people safe.”

Heeringa also emphasized the importance of cautionary measures outside of the building.

“What we really need is for people in the community to be practicing mitigation efforts outside of school. Not gathering with people outside of their home, making sure you are wearing a mask when you’re at a store, or wherever it may be. That’s going to be our best chance of success.”

Needless to say, the next few weeks will be riddled with uncertainty and meticulous planning to ensure the safety and education of students and staff. Only time will tell how these plans will pan out.

Sam Barnes is a sophomore.

This is his first year as a staff writer for "The Growl."


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