On the Virtual-Plus side

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Henry Hays

Senior Hailey Lane follows along with Pre-calculus teacher Matthew Garza as he explains a problem on the whiteboard. Lane, who is moving from in-person to virtual plus, said she is dedicated to Silver Wings and will continue to come in for practice, but is switching her other classes online to reduce contact with others. “[I won’t be going fully online] because of drill team,” Lane said. “I wouldn’t want to miss that or have to quit, so I wouldn’t want to go completely online.” Lane said.

When the new nine weeks begins on Oct. 19, 313 students will begin a new learning pathway two of them being,  junior Jaden Jares and senior Hailey Lane who are changing their schedules to accommodate educational needs. 

Jares began the school year doing virtual plus, only coming to first period for Silver Wings practice. She recently switched her two dual credit English and history classes to in-person after struggling to learn the material online.

“I originally was doing online dual credit English and history,”Jares said. “It was just hard to teach myself everything; it was hard to make time to do it because when you’re in school, you have to sit there, it’s more motivating and you’re with a teacher face-to-face, so you can get face-to-face feedback on stuff and ask questions. It’s just easier to learn and I feel like the workload is less.”

Starting the second nine weeks, 91 students are switching from either virtual plus or virtual to in-person learning. Despite switching to in-person, Jares has concerns about spending more time at school because her parents are high-risk.

 “One of my concerns is obviously I’d be with more people, more exposed [and] my chances of getting COVID-19 would be higher, Jares said. “It’s just a little bit scary because my family could be sensitive to it because they have health issues, so it would just suck if I got it.”

Unlike Jares, Lane switched from in-person to virtual plus after her mom expressed concerns. At the start of the second nine-weeks, Lane will only be coming into school for Silver Wings practice to reduce her contact with others.

“What I notice about in-person is that I would be able to get all my work done, but I wouldn’t be able to move on to the next subject because I would still be in class,” Lane said. “I hope that being online or doing virtual plus I’ll be able to get more work done in a shorter amount of time.”

For most students, the switch to learning plans was easy, only requiring the completion of a simple Skyward form. However, Jares had to take extra steps. Dual credit students take classes with professors from Collin College, and to make changes to dual credit classes, students not only have to work with their counselor, but also their professors at Collin College.

“I had to email the Dean at Collin [College and also] Kylie Butler-Hall who is a special admissions coordinator at Collin College,” Jares said. “I also had to email my previous professors, my online ones that I had, and I also had to email the [professors] I wanted to switch to which are the ones I have now. I had to get their permission and fill out this form, and I had to send that information in and now I’m still trying to catch up in my classes.”

Junior Jaden Jares works on her dual credit homework, one of the two classes she is taking in-person. Jares switched to in-person dual credit English and History in the middle of the nine weeks, but still has worries about having increased contact with people because her parents are considered high risk. (Henry Hays)

The school’s counselors have been affected by students changing their learning plans. At the start of the school year, the Hebron counseling team was working on student schedules 23 hours a day. 

“There were a couple of weeks at the very beginning of the school year when the last member of the counseling team was going to bed around 3 a.m. and the first member of the counseling team was waking up around 4 a.m.,” lead counselor Dr. Justin Fields said. “During the first two days of school, we received over 1,000 requests for schedule changes that needed to be addressed. That was very taxing on the counseling team, but we want to make sure that students are in the best position to succeed and take the classes they need.” 

Normally, counselors make several hundred schedule changes each year. Most of these changes are from students switching to easier classes or leaving athletic programs. 

This year, because of all of the learning plan options, virtual/in-person classes, learning plan changes, students on/off campus, etc. — everything related to COVID — our job has become a lot less personal with students than it usually is,” Fields said. “School counselors are here to help students, work with students and families, organize programs and interventions to help students, present to classrooms.We like working with students. But, this year we have reduced access to students and that is difficult.”

The district is allowing students to request a learning plan change every nine weeks. With circumstances continuing to change, Jares is keeping her options open.

“I actually am considering [complete in-person school] but probably not until next semester,” Jares said. “Right now because of the pandemic I want to stay at home a little.”