Photo courtesy of interview subject

Students Stay Home Scared to Learn in Pandemic Times

Students stay home this semester with concerns of health and quality of education.

Students stay home this semester with concerns of health and quality of education.

In the midst of the global pandemic, Humboldt State University students have chosen to stay home and attend classes virtually or not at all this semester, citing living expenses, health concerns and quality of education as factors in their decisions. Given most classes will only be offered virtually this semester, there’s much less incentive to be present on campus.

Ahead of their return, the HSU health department informed students of the risk in coming back to campus and the new safety protocol including wearing masks, practicing social distancing and a mandatory COVID-19 test followed by two weeks of self-quarantine upon arrival.

Calista Tutkowski, an environmental science major, is one of the students staying home and continuing her education online. Tutkowski’s family lives in Colorado and she decided coming back to campus wasn’t worth the risk. In her time on campus, Tutkowski made lots of friends that were also from out of state/from all over the country

“All of them coming back to one place felt like a recipe for disaster,” Tutkowski said.

While Tutkowski’s lab-classes were deemed deserving of in-person instruction this semester, her concern outweighed her desire to return.

“It just wouldn’t feel like a safe environment,” Tutkowski said.

In Colorado, she’s employed as an essential worker and frequently has to interact with customers that don’t abide by social-distancing protocols. Tutkowski also has the financial advantage of staying in her parents home and avoiding the cost of out-of-state tuition with the cost of housing in California, it wasn’t worth her return.

“It’s like pulling teeth with some people,” Tutkowski said. “I could just be making money here if I stayed home.”

Oliver McVay, a psychology student, online learning was never an option. The shift to online-instruction last semester in response to the initial outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, students like McVay, who suffers from a learning disability, were left to fend for themselves.

“There wasn’t a lot of face-to-face stuff,” McVay said. “It was more just, here’s the assignment, turn it on canvas by this day at this time.”

McVay experiences difficulty teaching himself the material and felt he wasn’t receiving the education he paid for, so he decided to take the year off.

“Last semester, I didn’t really learn anything from my online classes,” McVay said. “I just felt like it wasn’t benefiting me.”

Former HSU student, Chase Ervin, also found learning online too challenging in the spring and decided not to return for the fall.

“I knew that online schooling was going to be difficult,” said Ervin. “I went from like all A’s to all B’s and C’s.”

Students like Ervin and McVay require a proper learning environment to tap into their potential.

“I was lacking a lot of focus,” Ervin said. “There were a lot of distractions at home that I wouldn’t necessarily have at school.”

Whether students patiently await their return to the classroom or carry on pursuing an online education, it’s clear the virtual teaching methods do not benefit or cater to all students.

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