Return to New Normal: A Tatler Staff Conversation

On the evening of January 5th, two Tatler writers sat down to discuss the first in-person day of school after break.

MINOO J. ’24: And… we’re live. Alright, first day back on campus: any thoughts?

RAINA W. ’24: Robots. So many robots. There’s quite a few people out with COVID, and it’s a little disconcerting seeing them present on the screens of the robots. 

MJ: Ah, the mobile iPads being carried from classroom to classroom! Reminds me of that episode from Community.

RW: What?

MJ: Oh, never mind.

RW: …Anyways, I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the first day, but it seems like a lot of hassle to set up all of those extra screens. Compared to last year’s hybrid classes, would you say this was better or worse?

MJ: To be honest, today was pretty similar—students at home are still reporting issues with hearing discussions and seeing what’s on the board. Unfortunately, I don’t see huge improvement over classes being split between in-person and Zoom. 

RW: Yeah, I wonder if continuing in something like last year’s split remote/campus classroom might be better.

MJ: I have to agree with you on that. It’s true, I do miss last year’s format—I didn’t think those words would ever come out of my mouth, yet here we are. As much as I hated using Zoom in the hybrid setting, I also recognize its usefulness for classroom participation because students can collaborate with each other in breakout rooms. Looking at the ease-of-use side of things, I think teachers are now more experienced with running a Zoom classroom too. 

RW: That might be right, but I also suspect that the administration is just trying things out right now to find the best option. It’s a tradeoff of sorts. While the robots we’re using now are fun to interact with, Zoom calls are more convenient for everyone. Bots aside, even some laptops are being carried around right now to represent students. With people at home joining school in all sorts of ways, it might be strange for teachers to manage all those devices at once. Having to juggle power-hungry robots (for electricity, we mean), laptops, and Teams as well as an in-person class sometimes is surely a challenge.

MJ: Maybe we’ll get used to this. But I don’t see that happening soon. The bots can roll around the classroom, sure, but way too slow to be of use and anything but a distraction. It’ll be a lot of heavy-lifting, literal heavy-lifting, in that these machines and their smaller laptop counterparts need to be carried around everywhere. 

RW: In winter weather, too. And what happens when more people get infected? If positives in our community start to decrease, robots and laptops for each remote student might be plausible, but in any other situation purchasing more devices doesn’t seem scalable.

MJ: In my mind, the only way to be flexible and provide students the option of learning from home is to use Zoom. We very seriously risk running out of hardware to lug between classrooms as Omicron spreads—God forbid we need to go completely remote.

RW: Speaking of Zoom, remote learning might be the better choice for some of us right now. While I really enjoy being on campus, I’m also worried about catching Omicron and spreading it to my family. I’ve also heard that some students have positive close contacts like parents or siblings, even if they themselves tested negative at the start of the week. If some people are already remote, why not let students worried about exposure have it as an option too?

MJ: I’m also worried about community members—my friends too—who tested positive but can return to campus after five days of isolation. I hate to say it, but will I really feel safe next to them during advisory, in the locker room, or at lunch?

RW: In the time of COVID, can we feel safe next to anyone?

MJ: Fair.

RW: In addition, with seating arrangements in classrooms not always sufficiently distanced, I don’t know if mandatory in-person education is a reasonable thing to ask of Lakesiders. Lunch at school is particularly risky since masks are off, though as far as I can tell right now, students seem to be keeping proper distance after Mr. de Grys’ email. So keep it up!

MJ: I can’t help but laugh (cry), that something so normal as eating with each other is now a safety hazard. But we’ll see if students continue to follow the lunchtime rules.

RW: We’ll also see a test of Trace in the coming weeks. Will the app successfully recognize all close contacts as exposures grow? On the other hand, Lakeside’s been great with offering COVID tests weekly, something many other schools just don’t have the resources to do.

MJ: Yup. For all these criticisms we have, it’s a tremendous accomplishment to test 1000+ community members and get results back within three days. In frozen slush, no less!

RW: Not to mention all of Lakeside’s efforts to make sure everyone can learn. There are so many things Lakeside’s given us that other schools around the world don’t have. Looking back on it, it’s a marvel what Mr. Smith, teachers, nurses, and school administrators pulled off a year ago with hybrid learning.

MJ: But you have to feel for the medical workers right now. I can’t imagine what this is like for them, with cases exploding again—the most we can do is try to stay safe. Mask up, lions!