Aug. 5, 2021, West High, along with other schools in Hamblen County, welcomed students back at full capacity for the 2021-2022 school year. With parking lots being full and the halls of West High being packed, many students are happy to see this again. This is because of a decision made at the end of the 2020-2021 school year and over the summer by the Board of Education. Masks are also optional this school year.
The Tennessee Department of Education also mandated that Virtual Learning be independent from in-person learning. According to the Tennessee Department of Education Website, “A virtual school is a public school in which the school uses technology to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the internet in a virtual or remote setting.” This means that schools such as West High cannot offer virtual learning along with in-person learning as an option. It is important to note that this could change if Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
West High has seen over 80 percent of students return this year. According to Dr. Perry, Superintendent, “West has an additional 45 students this year.” West High has a total of 1546 students enrolled with 462 freshmen, 378 sophomores, 349 juniors, and 357 seniors.
A great deal of students, and parents, are content with this change. They are happy to see their friends smiling faces and socialize. Parents are glad to see their children’s mental health improve because of socialization. According to pcgkids.com, “Peer interaction is heightened in the in-person learning environment. Students can meet their teachers face-to-face as well as establish relationships with their classmates to some level. Learning is more interactive and group-oriented.” Senior Abigail Sanders says, “I am glad to see everyone.”
Several, though, oppose the change. Some students and parents are concerned that there could be a major Covid-19 outbreak within the school. Sanders continues by saying, “…But I am concerned there may be an outbreak if someone infected with Covid-19 comes to school.” Some are also worried by the mental stress and anxiety that may affect students. Pcgkids.com also says, “Limited peer interaction along with increased regulations may increase mental stress and anxiety in some children. Speaking to your children about social distancing and mental health is imperative to a successful in-person learning environment experience.”
As of now, the Hamblen County Department of Education has no plans to enact a mask mandate. It has been said, though, that one may be implemented in the future should an outbreak occur.