All schools in Oregon started to provide a hybrid or in-person option for students on April 19, as mandated by Governor Kate Brown. This decision seemed to many an abrupt one, that might not have considered the perspectives of students. The Franklin Post conducted a survey before the start of in-person learning, in order to gauge interest and concerns students had around going back to the school building. We received 544 responses as of May 6.
43 percent of students who took the survey said that if it weren’t for COVID-19 worries, returning to school would improve their mental health, and 52 percent said that it would help their schoolwork and grades. However, only about 20 percent of students said that they would feel at least relatively safe back in the building, with the majority of worries being COVID safety. Other concerns included social stress, work obligations, and scheduling.
The worries that students had about the hybrid schedule were tied to a lack of agency in decision making—for some students, their parents were making school-related decisions for them. 48 percent of students felt that student voices were not adequately considered while making the decision to return to school. They didn’t feel informed about what was happening, and were skeptical of the decision to return students to school buildings.
This decision was made by the governor, not the school district—however, it was administrators who had to plan and facilitate the return to school buildings. According to Franklin Principal Chris Frazier, in compliance with PPS safety guidelines every classroom in the building is equipped with a safety kit and a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. Students are also divided into cohorts, each comprised of approximately 500 students, and are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing while on campus.
The safety protocols put in place have obviously put some families at ease. Despite students’ many initial concerns, almost 50 percent of the Franklin student body have enrolled in hybrid learning—977 students in total. Frazier cites family feedback as being appreciative of having more opportunities for their students to check in with teachers and be in the building. And although there weren’t many official surveys sent out to the student body, the administration consulted with the Student Council as well as seeking feedback through teacher conversations with their classes. As the school year ends, the administration will continue to ensure that students remain safe while on campus.