Atessa Ferrigno, 11, is by now acclimated to school in the Age of Coronavirus. Four days out of the week, she gets to Julian by 9 a.m., minds the social-distancing prompts everywhere underneath her as she walks to a classroom with nine other kids spaced well apart from each other, the faces of their peers who are still learning remotely on a large screen. 

The in-person school day lasts until around 12:30 p.m., and between morning and noon, the mask stays on her face. 

“Wearing a mask hasn’t been hard at all,” she said. “I can forget I have it on, too.” 

Rare are the quirks of pre-pandemic school life — roughhousing in the hallways, spit balls, shaking hands.

“We don’t really talk to each other that much,” she said of her classmates. “We technically know each other, but we just stay our distance.” 

Ferrigno is well-versed in educational lingo.

“We get assigned one of our core teachers in subjects like math, language, literature and history, and our other teachers assign some asynchronous work to do in the classroom,” she said during an interview earlier this week. 

What’s asynchronous? 

“Asynchronous is the work you do on your own and not in-class-ish,” she explained, as only a middle-schooler can. 

Like Ferrigno, Liam Moroney, 15, doesn’t seem too bothered by hybrid learning, either. The Oak Park and River Forest High School freshman has adapted to the daily routine of morning temperature checks and surveys. 

“Once a week we do a spit test,” he said, referencing the Safeguard saliva screening tests that are designed to monitor potential positive cases of COVID-19. The test isn’t diagnostic, so a positive spit test is considered “presumptively positive,” mere prelude to an actual diagnostic test.

Moroney said he’s gotten used to mask-wearing and isn’t particularly afraid of contracting the virus. 

Students take part in hybrid learning inside of classrooms at OPRF.

“Obviously I don’t want to get my family sick and there are definitely some people a little freaked out because this is still not normal to them, but at school everyone seems to be walking around like it’s a normal day,” he said. “But with masks on.” 

There are oddities he’s noticed, though.

“Inside, you can only go up some sets stairs and not others, which is like walking through a maze,” he said. 

As if OPRF were not already a maze to begin with.

“Exactly,” Moroney says, then laughs knowingly.

When compared to full remote learning, Moroney and Ferrigno both said they prefer hybrid. 

“I never really got to know my teachers online,” Moroney said. “Over the three days I’ve gone into the class, I’ve gotten to know my teachers way more than I did my first semester.”

“I feel like the remote experience is a little harder than the hybrid one,” Ferrigno said. “I feel like remote is a lot more stressful than hybrid.” 

Josh Vanderberg, the parent of two D97 students who are currently attending in-person classes as part of the hybrid model, said he’s “getting mixed reviews,” although the experience is growing on both kids. 

“My daughter kind of liked the freedom of being able to move around the house and do whatever she wanted to do,” Vanderberg said. “She liked to find her a little spot in the house and she did not want to go back to school, but I think after a week she’s beginning to like it.” 

Vanderberg said both children are enjoying the opportunity to spend some time with their peers and teachers in person, although he acknowledged that the current hybrid model is still “really restrictive.” 

Ferrigno said she’s even noticed that she’s learning more than she was before the pandemic instructional changes. 

“I feel like I’m reading more than I used to,” she said, adding that she feels like she has more freedom to choose her reading projects. 

But despite being relatively unfazed by the adjustments, Moroney acknowledged that his experience as an incoming freshman is different than OPRF students who are juniors and seniors. 

“It would be different if you talked to an upperclassman because they know the real experience of OPRF and they know what they’re missing,” he said. “For me, I don’t know what I’m missing out on.” 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Atessa Ferrigno. This post has since been updated. Wednesday Journal regrets the error.

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