Opinion: Schools re-opening prematurely despite global pandemic

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Annika Pepper

Students wearing face masks in Adriah Williams’ seventh-period Food, Nutrition, and Wellness class. COVID-19 has been plastered all over the news since mid-March of 2020. The global pandemic’s spread can be limited by wearing masks and social distancing, something posing a challenge to schools reopening for the 2020-2021 school year due to people’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of others.

As the year progresses and COVID-19 numbers are rising, people are living in ignorance in an attempt to gain some sense of normalcy in their lives. Due to the steadily rising number of cases, the thought of normalcy seems fictitious.  

The United States alone has a total of 8.6 million cases of COVID-19 and roughly 250,000 deaths, with the numbers rising higher each day. These rising numbers are thanks to individual states prematurely opening public gathering spots, such as bars, restaurants, and more recently, schools.

Within the first four weeks of schools reopening, there was a 90% increase in COVID-19 cases from students alone. Even with the strict regulations schools are putting in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, students and teachers across the country are still catching the disease and spreading it to others. 

According to aarp.org, it is estimated that 1 in 4 teachers are at severe risk for COVID-19. That is roughly 1.5 million people at-risk for testing positive for COVID-19. Not to mention, children contribute to 11% of all COVID cases. With numbers as concerning as these, reopening schools for full-time learning is questionable, regardless of any precautions the school takes to make a safe learning environment.

Like many other states, Georgia is slowly reopening their schools for in-person lessons. Schools throughout the state started off with a “yellow” schedule — two days of online, asynchronous learning, and two days of in-person learning. As the school year progresses, more and more schools are switching to a “green” schedule, meaning students attend in-person classes all week. 

[S]tudents I have encountered all seem to share the same ‘holier than thou’ mindset.”

— Op-ed Editor Rachel Laposka

Starr’s Mill switched to a “green” schedule the week of Oct. 19, a decision I am still uncomfortable with. 

Until a vaccine is approved and mass-produced, the ambitious timeline of which is set in mid-2021, schools are enforcing “strict” mask and social distancing policies as well as contact-tracing to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Wearing masks and social distancing for an eight-hour school day is smart in theory, but in execution, it is unrealistic, especially when it comes to high school students. Quite a few high school students I have encountered all seem to share the same “holier than thou” mindset, leading them to believe that wearing a mask is beneath them, leading them to wear their masks incorrectly, some even refusing to wear their masks in the hallways during class changes.

As we approach the end of the first semester of school, I have noticed my fair share of not only students but a few teachers as well, incorrectly wearing their masks, most of them wearing the mask below their nose rather than covering it to further limit the spread of COVID.

[T]he current global pandemic should be the perfect motivation for students.”

— Op-ed Editor Rachel Laposka

These people refusing to wear their masks properly are putting their peers and co-workers at risk simply because they do not like the way it feels. If they truly wish for the world to return to “normal,” then they should be able to suck up the mild discomfort and at least wear their masks properly to limit the spread. 

Students perform better when they are physically in classes. I, by no means, enjoyed virtual learning. I found it difficult to stay focused and keep up with my assignments all while attempting to teach myself new material.

That being said, it is not impossible to complete school from home — students just need the proper motivation. In this case, the current global pandemic should be the perfect motivation for students. They should be able to put their disinterest in online school aside if that means the country can properly heal from this devastating pandemic.

If schools remain online until our country gets a better grip on the current COVID-19 crisis, then life can soon return to that “normalcy” we all crave.