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Highline students hope for return to in-person classes

Thunderword Staff Mar 18, 2021

Many Highline students and faculty alike hope that the pandemic will be under control by Fall Quarter 2021, so that some classes can return to in-person meeting.

While nothing is set in stone yet, Highline officials have been discussing returning to some form of in-person classes this fall. 

What it really comes down to are CDC and state guidelines, as well as what students, staff, and faculty are comfortable with, said Highline President Dr. John Mosby. 

“We need to plan ahead for a phased-in return to being on campus, while adhering to the CDC guidelines,” Dr. Mosby said.

And while there’s a possibility of things returning to a new normal, some are still skeptical.

“My hopes are that we have a handle on this pandemic, that the vaccine rollout is successful, and that we all come back to work different, humbler than before,” said Highline sociology Professor Douglas Avella-Castro. “My hope is that we learn something from this past year, but my fear is that we haven’t and won’t.”

“I miss being in the classroom. … I miss the energy from students that fuels my love for teaching,” Avella-Castro said.

“I would love traditional classes. I don’t know if that’s plausible,” he said. “If we can do it safely, and that means safely for everyone who makes up the campus community, especially the most vulnerable, then I’d like to get back to traditional.”

Many students have also missed in-person classes.

“It has been OK for me but difficult when I wasn’t as motivated, because being home made it hard to get out of a rut,” student Skye Anderson said. 

Highline student Nancy Cisneros said that she agrees with this sentiment. “To be honest, I haven’t been as motivated as I thought I would be in the beginning,” she said. 

On top of a bigger focus on self-managing schoolwork and a vastly different classroom environment, students are also having trouble getting comfortable with their teachers, making friends, and finding study buddies.

“I don’t feel connected with any of my teachers or classmates, except for this class,” Anderson said. “In some classes, I have never talked to my classmates. [I wish there were] more socialization and group chats between students.”

Cisneros has had similar experiences in her classes. 

“It really depends on the class. For example, in math I feel pretty connected to my classmates because we have this Discord [group] chat, and we can joke around a little with the professor,” she said. “But in another one of my classes, I feel super disconnected from my classmates because there is no way for us to communicate together.”

The two expressed similarly disappointed sentiments about next year being virtual, particularly as running start students, but they would rather be safe than sorry. 

“It’s upsetting,” Anderson said. “But it can’t be controlled.”

“As long as COVID cases go down, we wear masks, social distance etc., I think I would feel a little bit OK [with in-person classes],” Cisneros said, “but if cases are still as bad as they are right now, then I wouldn’t feel safe all.” 

Although some students want things to get back to normal soon, others have said that they would rather not take the risk of making things worse than they already are.

“It really sucks that I’ll have to spend my last year of high school online, and not at school spending the last few moments with friends, making memories and doing all the crazy senior traditions,” Cisneros said. “However, I do understand, since we are in a global pandemic.”

Because of concerns regarding in-person classes, the college has sent out a survey for people to fill out (https://forms.gle/brNEaayqRL2pwiTHA) about what they are comfortable with in regards to online versus on-campus classes, events, and resources for next year at Highline.

And ultimately, time will tell what final decisions for Fall Quarter are made.

“Continue to read updates from campus and remain updated.  Also, our community can ask questions using the email address covid19response@highline.edu,” Dr. Mosby said. “These efforts will take a great deal of effort and collaboration with students, staff and faculty.  However, I’m confident we will phase back onto campus appropriately and safely.”

Thunderword reporters Tessa Fishkin, Izzy Anderson, and Cece Onyema contributed to this story.