Online students face decision of returning to in person learning

With changes in COVID-19 rates and social factors, Souderton Online Academy students had to decide whether to continue online learning or return to in-person learning this semester. After much thought, around two-hundred students decided to return and some students have decided to switch from in person classes to online.


Ready for a change… Finishing up his online semester one work, sophomore Jon Kamaratos prepares to return to Souderton in-person learning. Kamartos had originally planned to continue with the Souderton Area Online Academy in the spring, but decided he wanted the social experience of in-person learning.

Spending time talking with guidance counselors from home and deeply deliberating, Souderton’s Online Academy students have been faced with the decision of whether to continue their school year online or return to in-person learning at the end of the fall semester.
The Souderton Area Online Academy (SAOA) offers students an alternative learning experience to in-person schooling as a way to provide equal educational opportunity to immuno conscious students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sophomore Afreen Ahmad attended the SAOA for the fall semester and plans to continue with online-learning for the rest of the year.
Ahmad had considered returning to Souderton’s in-person learning, but decided to remain at home as COVID-19 cases began to rise again.
“Originally, I was planning on coming back in-person, but my parents were worried about the number of covid cases rising,” Ahmad said. “My brother also has an underlying health condition, so we have been trying our best to stay home in order to protect him.”
According to Ahmad, the hardest things to give up from in-person learning was connecting with peers everyday and playing tennis.
“With online school, we don’t interact with other students too often, so I miss the social atmosphere,,” Ahmad said. “I was unable to play tennis this year, and that was probably one of the hardest things that I had to give up.”
Even though Ahmad misses the in-person aspects of learning, she believes that the Online Academy has been suitable for her situation during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Overall, I would say that my experience online has been very enjoyable,” Ahmad said. “I love being able to work safely from the comfort of my home, and I don’t feel like I am missing out on too much.”
According to Ahmad, online-school has even had its benefits at times.
“On the days when I don’t feel as motivated, I’m not as stressed. I can often take it easy and even give myself a pajama day when I need it,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad attributes the lower stress environment to the flexibility that the Online Academy offers to at home students.
“We have the whole day to complete any assignments, which gives us plenty of time to do our work,” Ahmad said. “I also think that working virtually allows for me to stay focused more and I think that I learn the best this way.”
Sophomore Jon Kamartos believed that he was going to remain at home for semester two until changing his mind and deciding to attend in-person.
One of Kamaratos’s main factors in his decision was concern about having “difficulty transitioning back into regular classes” after spending semester one learning at his own pace throughout the day.
Ultimately Kamaratos decided that he will return to Souderton in-person learning. Kamaratos had originally planned to continue online learning for semester two.
Kamaratos enjoyed the flexible learning schedule the Online Academy has provided to him, but ultimately the social experience of in person learning outweighed the benefits of online learning.
“I guess I just got comfortable with online, and I started to enjoy that a bit more than I would in-school learning.” Kamaratos said.
Junior Oliver Milles plans to return to Souderton for the spring semester. Milles spent the fall semester online, but believes it is in his best interest to return to in-person learning.
“Online Academy was getting boring,” Milles said. “Even though I did enjoy some aspects of online, I do prefer being in-school, even if there are restrictions on the way we’re going to be learning.”
Milles has few concerns about returning. However, he recognizes that returning will increase his exposure risk.
“I don’t have many worries about returning other than the possibility of having to quarantine if people are getting sick. That hasn’t been an issue since I’ve only been exposed to sports and stuff outside of school,” Milles said.
Milles is looking forward to returning to in-person learning amongst his peers and teachers.
“I am excited to see my friends and I feel like it’ll be easier to get help from teachers, if I need to.” Milles said.
The concern Kamaratos has about returning to structured learning is not shared by Milles.
“I’ve been pretty structured like I wake up pretty early to do my classwork. I’ve been exercising, stuff like that. And I do sports with the school,” Milles said. “I mean the only thing that I’m a little unsure about is actually having to wake up super early.”
While students are switching from online academy to in person learning, other students are making the opposite transition. Sophomore Lydia Hwang is planning to attend her semester two classes virtually after spending first semester in school.
A contributing factor to Hwang’s desire to switch to in person learning was the experience she had with virtual schooling doing a school-wide week of remote learning.
“I felt really stress free in those two weeks,” Hwang said. “ I thought it was so much better and then when we switched to in-person, I was like, I miss online.”
Another factor that Hwang was concerned about was rising coronavirus rates. Hwang lives with her grandma, who is high risk for COVID-19.
“So many people in my classes were all getting quarantined and they were all near me,” Hwang said.”I have my grandma who’s really high risk and if I got it from school, that’d be really dangerous for her.”
Hwang believes that having lower exposure to the virus will help lower her stress levels.
“Waking up at like 6:30 in the morning was so stressful and going to school and sitting there in different classrooms [throughout the day],” Hwang said.