Possibility of Online School Returning As COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise


Brodie Curtsinger

Senior Austin Hale walking outside of school, on his computer, showcasing the possible transition from in-person school to online. Many students have been worried about the possibility of us going back to online school, and Hale has noticed all those students. “The reason why so many people are feeling we could return to online school, in my opinion, is because a lot of people, I know, are saying how teachers, there will be barely any enough to take the place of all the missing teachers. So, there’s probably a classroom, or so, missing a teacher, and kids. I mean, me being in a PE class, there was maybe about 40 people; now, there’s like hardly 30,” Hale said.

Brodie Curtsinger, Sports Editor

NTI: perhaps coming to a high school near you.

Going into the school year, most people didn’t consider it a possibility that online school could be coming back, but with COVID-19 cases rising, many people see it coming back.

Superintendent Jesse Bacon believes that there is a low chance that we will be going back to online school, with quarantine numbers continuing to rise. Math Teacher Kenny Thornsberry believes his class would change quite a bit, if we were to return to online school. Senior Austin Hale is not one of the students who’s worried that we will be going back to online school, even if we do.

Bacon noticed a lot of issues if we weren’t to wear masks during that first couple of weeks of school. “If you guys remember, open houses were held in a lot of schools that week, and we had a mask optional policy for those open houses during orientations, during that week. What we saw was our transmission rates really started to explode, and it created a lot of quarantine issues for us,” Bacon said, “We really had to ask ourselves: ‘What gives us the best chance to be able to remain in person for a sustained period of time?’ So, the board made the decision that based on the quarantine requirements, that is six foot versus three foot, masked and unmasked.” Bacon had to ask himself a bunch of questions to take all things into consideration.

Bacon has taken a lot of things into consideration to keep us in-person for as long as possible. “So, the board really made the decision that they felt like they needed to, in order to preserve as much in person learning time as possible,” Bacon said, “I do hope that they give us some relief, in the event that we need to go into for a short period of time, to let things kind of cool down. I hope we don’t get to that point, but having the ability to do that without having to extend the school year is important.” Bacon hopes that the legislature gives some relief when it comes to the restriction of only being able to have 10 NTI days this year.

Bacon has noticed the numbers slowing down, and there’s a way for people to actually keep up with how many COVID cases there are, on the Bullitt County Public Schools website. “We’re seeing the numbers slowing down. I’m not going to say we’re on a decline yet, but the rate of quarantine is actually slowing, and you can see those numbers, if you go to our district website. There’s a section in there, that’s COVID-19, and it’s the button in the middle on the top part of the page, and there’s a link you can get to our district dashboard, and you can see in every school: How many positives we have in the school? How many of those positives are teachers and staff, versus students? Then, the same with our quarantine numbers,” Bacon said, “If we had to close now, I would probably be a little reluctant to use a lot of NTI days, and it’s really hard because with the virus and with illness, you can’t just close school for a day or two, and it’s going to have an impact. I mean, you’re going to have to close for a sustained period of time.” Bacon knows that if they have to close school, they will have to close it for quite some time, more than likely.

Bacon hopes for the most normal year that we could possibly get. “Well we hope that it’s going to be as normal, in the feel, as possible. I mean, we know it’s not completely normal when you got a face covering on, but we hope to see full classrooms, kids collaborating with each other, and going in and using the same methods and instructional strategies that we’ve always been able to use,” Bacon said, “So, I cringe when I use the word: ‘normal.’ I think we’ve learned a lot through this whole experience, over the last 18 months that we can make our experience better than it was before. So, that’s why I kind of hesitate when I say, ‘I want to be back to normal,’ because I don’t know that I want to go completely back to where we were. prior to COVID.” Bacon isn’t exactly sure if he wants things to go completely back to ‘normal,’ like it was before COVID-19.

Bacon has noticed that online learning is definitely not for everyone, and that is one of the many things that pushes him to do in-person learning as much as possible. “For the vast majority of students, though the best setting for them, is in-person learning. There’s no greater influence in learning, than a highly qualified teacher, and students being with that highly qualified teacher. So, that’s what we’re trying to preserve. So, really, for us, it’s about how do we do that? How do we make sure that we can keep students in the building, that we can do so safely, and manage what’s going on around us,” Bacon said. 

Thornsberry never felt as if there would be a possibility of a return to online school, during the summer of last year. “During the summer, no, (it didn’t feel like it was possible for us to have to go back to online school). It felt like the numbers were down and we hadn’t really seen a spike, but as we got closer to school, I felt like it seemed like it could be a possibility when the numbers started going back up,” Thornsberry said, “Honestly, I have no clue. As of right now, I think the way we’re handling it, it does seem like we’re doing everything we can to stay in place.” Thornsberry now believes that the chances of us actually going back to online school is actually kind of small, because he thinks they’re handling it pretty well.

Thornsberry feels as if the reason why so many people think that we could be making a return to online school is primarily because of them seeing the numbers, and hearing about all the people having to quarantine. “I think a lot of people see the numbers portrayed to them, and so they think that the numbers are going up, and they see people quarantining; so, they assume, because of that, it will go back virtual,” Thornsberry said, “For some students, it’s more effective, but for the vast majority, it’s not as effective because they aren’t able to get that extra help during class when they need it, or ask questions when they’re available, and they’re not as likely to do that, virtually.” Thornsberry is kind of unbiased about online school, because it works for some people, but doesn’t work for other people.

Thornsberry hopes to have his students in-person as much as possible, for this year. “For me, my students struggled last year, not being in-person. So, the more I can have them in-person, the better off they are,” Thornsberry said, “In terms of going back online, you kind of miss out on building that relationship with students. So, a lot of my students aren’t able to get the work, because the relationship we build in class, if we have to go back virtual, we miss out on a lot of that stuff.” Thornsberry believes his class would definitely change, if we were to return to online school, because of teacher-student relationship building.

Hale, during the summer, didn’t feel there would be even a possibility of everyone going back to NTI. “I did not feel it would be a possibility for us going back into online school during last summer, seeming as we had our mask-mandate removed midway through summer, so everyone expected to be ‘a-okay,’ but now, here we are,” Hale said, “Probably, maybe a 70, or 65 percent chance of going online because, like I said there’s hardly any teachers to take places, kids are missing all over the place leaving classrooms halfway full, and just what’s the point of having a school, if there’s no teachers to teach any kids.” Hale now has a rather larger feeling that we could actually be going back to online school, though.

Hale feels the reason as to why so many of his fellow students, besides from himself, think that we’re going back to online school is because of the lack of teachers and students missing. “The reason why so many people are feeling we could return to online school, in my opinion, is because a lot of people, I know, are saying how teachers, there will be barely any enough to take the place of all the missing teachers. So, there’s probably a classroom, or so, missing a teacher, and kids. I mean, me being in a PE class, there was maybe about 40 people; now, there’s like hardly 30,” Thornsberry said, “In the past, I actually would prefer online school, but, with it being my senior year, I would it rather not go back, because you only get one senior year in your life, and you can never be a senior again, in high school at least, you can be a senior in college.” Hale believes that he used to enjoy online school, but considering it’s now his senior year, he would definitely rather be in school.

Hale is joyful, and it makes him less worried, that we can only have, at most, 10 NTI days. “It makes me less worried to know there will only be 10 NTI days, because it could be much worse; it could be for the rest of the year, and kids are not living up to the high school life, that all the adults talk about,” Hale said, “Just two weeks; I mean, I look at it now, and it’s not that big, but I’m sure if it does happen, it would be like: ‘Wow, the amount of things I could have done in that amount of time.’” Although, it does make him a little bit upset that it’s two school weeks out of his senior year, but he doesn’t really mind.

Hale feels as if his actions, as a student, would change quite a bit, if there were to be a return to online school, even if it was for only two school weeks. “I would definitely sleep-in later, and I would probably not be as on top of myself, as I am in-person, if we went back to online school,” Hale said.

Bacon has a message that he wants to send out to the parents. “So, we completely understand the frustrations that our parents have, when we had been communicating all summer that we were going to make that a choice, but what we really tried to explain to them was that this is really about more than just: ‘Do the mask work, or not?’ Obviously, I’m not a medical expert, and I don’t feel qualified to make that determination. I have to rely on the medical experts who have studied this, and made a career out of this, to advise us on what we should do from that standpoint,” Bacon said, “Nobody wants to be back to a more normal setting, more than I do and the board does, but at the end of the day, we have to do all we can to preserve in-person learning opportunities, even if that means we have to have a face covering on for a little bit longer than we wanted to. (The reason why is) because the alternative to that is we don’t have school at all, and we close and we make those days up later on, or we go to virtual learning which we know is not optimal, for the vast majority of our student body. So, while we know it’s an inconvenience. It’s not what anybody wants, but at the end of the day if that gives us the best chance to stay in-person, then it’s what we have to do.”