By Olivia Sohn ‘23, Features Editor
At the start of the school year, the Heschel Administration announced its decision to limit Zooming into class to COVID-positive or quarantining students. With much of the student body fully-vaccinated and New York COVID case counts low, the school believed that returning to in-person learning–and limiting the use of Zoom–was a safe decision. Nevertheless, I still maintain there are advantages to permitting broader Zoom usage.
Many students face immense anxiety about missing class when they are ill, and Zoom is an effective solution. Additionally, if the school expects sick students with non-COVID-related illnesses to stay home, I don’t see why those students should not be allowed to Zoom in, especially if students with COVID are already online. I understand sickness can often be subjective, and many teachers would encourage sick students to take the day off, but in practice, ill students often come to school out of fear of falling behind. Moreover, FaceTiming into a class, the next best option for students not in school, can be disruptive to class and doesn’t have the benefit of allowing the student to see the Smart Board or class notes.
On the other hand, Zoom is far from flawless, and sometimes it can detract from students’ learning. Last year, Zoom classes were intended for those students with COVID, or those who were fully remote. Instead, Zoom became an easy way for students to attend school remotely whenever the mood struck. I often felt that students with no special circumstances were taking advantage of the Zoom option. Many students Zoomed into class while vacationing, in the car, at doctors’ appointments, or on days when attending school in-person felt too exhausting. I don’t say this with any judgment; last year, I too used Zoom to my advantage, but that does not negate the fact that Zoom can cause significant class disruption. In some classes, it would take ten minutes of class time to set up the Zoom and another five minutes to fix any technological difficulties. Zoom undoubtedly interfered with the flow of class and learning.
Nevertheless, the positives of Zoom outweigh the negatives. Students absent from class will continue to join class virtually either by Zoom (if allowed) or FaceTime. Both of these options cause disturbances; however, Zoom allows for a more effective virtual learning experience. Therefore, I believe Zoom should be offered to students for health-related absences with the assumption that students would not take advantage of this policy. In order to ensure Zoom is used properly, the school could adapt the honor code to include appropriate Zooming.