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School in the Fall: Is it Safe??

By: Della Lin

After many countless months, COVID-19 is still a major part of our daily lives. The coronavirus has changed the way we do everyday tasks, like grocery shopping, affected all of our summer plans, and has now changed how the entire education system will operate in the fall. Over the course of the summer, the million-dollar question was: Is it safe for students to go back to school this fall?

Even today, there is still much debate about this topic. Some are fine with children returning to school, while others are afraid of the consequences. There are some studies that have been done that show that children are probably less likely to be harmed by this virus than adults. Additionally, some information even suggests that they may be less likely to transmit the virus. However, due to the fact that great measures have been taken to shut down schools and have people quarantined at home, children have not been as exposed as they would otherwise be, so it’s still too early to tell if those studies are accurate. Another thing to consider is the people who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus and developing serious symptoms. Even though kids are at a lower risk, it’s still a major possibility that they could come in contact with someone who has the virus then return home and spread it to other family members. 

For schools that have decided to reopen, they have been required to enforce certain guidelines to maintain the well-being of students and staff. Those guidelines include checking for coronavirus symptoms, including temperature screenings, prior to entering the building. The problem with that is that there are many people who contract the virus and end up being asymptomatic. They won’t have a high fever or experience coughing, so people could have the virus without even knowing and possibly spread it to others. Returning to school in the fall could potentially increase cases and infection rates, but by enforcing strict guidelines and being very careful, there may be nothing to worry about. We are continually learning new things about this virus every single day, so it’s hard to predict what could happen as students return to school.

The Half Hollow Hills District officially decided that students would be going back to school this fall. Elementary students would return in a full in-person model, while middle school and high school students would return in a hybrid model. In this model, students are grouped by household into two cohorts. Students in the blue cohort will report to school every Wednesday, Friday, and every other Monday and students in the green cohort will report to school every Tuesday, Thursday, and every other Monday. Even though schools are reopening, students will still have the option of learning remotely full time and joining their classes via zoom or other conferencing programs. 

In order to reopen and maintain the well-being of students and staff, the district has implemented guidelines that we all have to follow. Anybody who enters the building will be required to wear masks or face coverings at all times, except during meals and brief mask breaks. In addition to having temperature screenings, individuals will be required to complete a medical screening questionnaire each morning. Social distancing will be enforced in the classrooms and in the hallways. Thus, class sizes will be smaller, and hallway traffic is limited to a single flow direction. Students will not have access to lockers for at least the first few weeks due to social distancing challenges in the hallways. Also, secondary students are eating lunch at individual desks placed six feet apart from each other, while elementary students will not be allowed in the cafeteria at all. There will be no scheduled field trips or assemblies, fall sports will be delayed, and extracurricular activities will start as remote opportunities at the beginning of the year. During unprecedented times, returning to school this fall will certainly be a unique experience, but it will be well worth it to try and find some sense of normalcy once again. 

Photo courtesy of N. Dalton.