In-person school: is it a good idea?

Since the discovery of the Omicron variant, COVID-19 cases have been skyrocketing all over the world.

The Washington State Department of Health reported on Dec. 29 that Dec. 24 had the largest single-day report of new COVID-19 cases with 6,140 cases. With the number of breakthrough cases rising, there is an understandable fear surrounding returning to in-person classes this winter quarter.

I have my own fear surrounding returning to in-person classes. Recently, two members of my family who were fully vaccinated tested positive on a rapid test for COVID-19. While we did see them on Dec. 26, all four people living in my household have tested negative for COVID-19.

I’ve heard many stories like this.

Is returning in-person as safe as it was in the fall? It would seem not. The New York Times reports that Washington has had a 293% case increase in the last fourteen days, as of Jan. 5.

It has been reported by The New York Times that both Pierce and King counties are hot spots, meaning that they’ve had more than 250 cases per 100,000 people in the week of Dec. 27.

Despite these harrowing statistics, another part of me wants to return to in-person classes. 

For one, I have had only one quarter of in-person classes for my entire college career, and for two, now that I know what I’m missing out on , I don’t think I can go back to black Zoom screens and emails again.

Online school was hard enough the first time and now that I’ve gotten a taste of making friends and going to in-person classes and the general college experience, I don’t think I could easily go back.

Because most of my time in college was online, I didn’t realize the importance of having a social aspect in classes. The in-class discussions either didn’t happen or consisted of one or two people during online classes. I don’t want to miss out on the amazing debates and discussions that I expect since returning to in-person classes.

I learn so much better in person than I ever have online, no matter what subject or professor; I am a hands-on learner, and trying to learn online as a hands-on learner is much harder and more frustrating than in-person.

Ana Mari Cauce, the UW president, sent out an email encouraging all UW students to get tested before returning to in-person classes on Jan. 10. Cauce says that if anything changes in terms of COVID-19 cases and the general effect of coronavirus in the community then the UW will return, possibly temporarily, to online classes. 

Cauce also suggested that students, staff and faculty upgrade from cloth homemade masks to surgical, KN95, or KF94 masks for more protection. 

This is such a tough decision to make and there are many pros and cons for both staying in-person and going back to online classes.

There is undoubtedly much anxiety and fear among many students regarding returning to campus. However, if we all do our best to stay safe, maybe we can ease some of the stress for our students, staff and faculty.