In-Person vs. Virtual Learning

Students from around the St. Louis area share their opinions on the 2020-21 school year.


Photo provided by Pixabay.

Allison Loudenback

High school is often remembered as four years of lifelong memories–school dances, pep rallies, sporting events, and more. However, in efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 among students and faculty, many districts have changed their learning plans drastically, meaning this generation of students may not get to have the traditional high school experience.

Some schools made the decision to adopt an all-virtual system, some have chosen to implement a hybrid of in-person and online classes, while others decided to return in-person full-time. Regardless of which learning system their school chose, the majority of students approached the new year with mixed emotions.

Freshman Matthew Wehling agrees with PCH’s decision to begin the year with entirely virtual classes, but has also acknowledged the difficulties that online learning has presented. Not only have there been many academic struggles with lessened communication and a shift to the new quarter schedule, but resuming athletics has also proven to be a challenge, considering many sports involve physical contact and close interaction.

“In classes, we’re learning the material but with half the class time, and that makes it really hard to ask questions…so at times it can feel really stressful,” Wehling said. “But cross-country…the bulk of the time is maskless, which is pretty dangerous, but that’s what they’ve decided.”

However, unlike Parkway schools, there are a number of private schools that have decided to resume in-person school, mainly due to their class sizes, which are generally smaller than those of public schools. Rachel Jonz, a sophomore at St. John Paul II School, was glad to go back in-person. She believes that learning and comprehending her schoolwork will be easier, but she is also hopeful that everybody will abide by the pandemic restrictions.

“I disagree and agree with my school’s decision,” Jonz said. “I agree because it is easier to learn in school, and I disagree because everyone is being put in risk of getting the Coronavirus.”

Jonz’s school has a sophomore class of only 15 students. While she stated that she often wishes her class was larger, she is also appreciative of the fact that her school’s small size allowed them to accommodate in-person schooling more easily, giving their students the chance to see their friends and return to a sense of normalcy.

Sophomore Katie Anth also attends a private school (Incarnate Word Academy) and recently made the choice to return to school in-person after learning virtually for the first two weeks.

A difficult challenge at school is adjusting to being around people again. Even though people are required to wear masks, there are times like lunch period, when people are nearby without masks,” Anth said. “But being in person also forces me to pay attention, and I’ve been more productive now that my day follows a schedule again.”

On the other hand, Artur Breternitz, a sophomore at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, believes that his school’s choice to do virtual classes was for the best. Their school took action to prioritize safety and health, even though it meant canceling some important events, such as a district tournament for Speech & Debate and a marching band trip.

“Online is the only feasible option [right now],” Breternitz said. He also believes that the future of learning will look different, even after the virus is no longer a concern, stating, “Many schools will go virtual for more classes–a few will probably eliminate snow days and instead use online learning on those dates…[with] more flexibility into their curriculums.”