Counterpoint: Should we go back to school full time?

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Kayla Caplin, Staff Writer

As the school year draws to an end, the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing and teachers and students are getting vaccinated.  There has recently been a decision that all students will be returning to Schreiber full-time in-person on April 19.  With the implementation of new safety measures and the additional protection provided by the vaccines, many people believe that it is safe for everyone to return.  Although the decision to return to in-person classes may have many positive effects, the cons of this plan greatly outweigh the benefits.

“Going back full-time now, when we are so close to the end of the year, does not seem beneficial to students or teachers.  We have finally adjusted to hybrid learning, and changing our routines now would cause chaos.  Remote students would have an even harder time learning since only a couple of them would be on the meet.  Also, close contacts in classrooms will be quarantined again, right when AP tests are happening.  I know I, and many people who I’ve talked to, are fearful that we might be forced to go into quarantine during our tests, meaning that we wouldn’t be able to take them until June,” said junior Kiera Darnell.

Returning back to school could have serious consequences with widespread quarantining in the case of an outbreak.  If this should happen around the time of the AP tests, which many students have been preparing for for months,  students may be forced to miss the initial testing date and have to wait until June to have another, this time online,  to makeup  these important tests.  Continuing the hybrid model would decrease the risk of quarantining and transmission and would help to ensure that everyone will be able to take their AP tests in May.

In addition, increased cases and quarantining can lead to sports team quarantining or being completely shut down.  This would cause many students to lose important aspects of their high school experience.

“All of us going back to school means that we will be closer together and exposed to more people.  With AP tests coming up, I’m scared of having to quarantine during the time when I’m supposed to take my tests.  The only way to ensure that I won’t have to quarantine would be to go fully remote, but doing that would give me much less interaction with my friends and I’d have to take my AP tests much later and at home anyway.  I understand why it might be good for seniors to go back because it is their last year with their high school friends, but every other grade has at least one more full year of being in Schreiber.  I do not think it is worth the risk,” said junior Gabrielle Gitman. 

In fear of contracting COVID-19, many students may turn to full-remote school as an alternative to full in-person school.  With the loss of hybrid learning as an option, these students will lose all opportunities for in-person instruction, which could destroy teacher-student bonds and negatively affect their grades.  In addition, these students would lose the chance to see and interact with their friends, causing them to lose friendships and social interaction, which is detrimental to students’ mental health.

“Although the CDC guidelines say that with masks and shields it is safe to be within three feet of each other in a school environment, students are still vulnerable because the majority of students who are 16 or older (the age limit for a COVID-19 vaccine) are not yet vaccinated.  New York is reducing the age of vaccine eligibility to all 16 year olds only a week before opening school.  Additionally, half of the student body is  not  eligible to be vaccinated even with the age reduction.  Desks are also likely to be closer than three feet because of how many students there are, and nothing even remotely close to bringing more people into school buildings at once has been attempted in preparation.  It is also very soon after a long vacation where people will be traveling and students are likely to continue gathering and not following safety guidelines (a pattern seen throughout the pandemic).  The lack of preparation and risk this poses to students and their families makes all in person an irrational decision, and the consequences outweigh any benefits,” said junior Jacqueline Atchley. 

This lack of preparation before making such an important change in policy is extremely concerning.  There is no information on how hallways will continue to operate safely with students packed together without any room to spread out.  In addition, similar situations will occur in classrooms now that the desks are closer together.  

This close proximity may cause multiple groups of students to quarantine if one student becomes sick.  Furthermore, with the entire student body at school, finding a safe area to have lunch will become difficult.  Even with tents being built, there will still be too many students eating in too few places.

Lastly, the cost of this endeavour to bring back all students is extremely high and could be used for more important student-related activities and classes.  With the shields reportedly costing $200,000 and an unknown price-tag on the tents, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent irresponsibly.  It would be smarter to make these purchases after or during the summer, when new guidelines will be in place and more students will be vaccinated.

With the majority of the student body left defenseless against COVID-19 without the vaccine and proper social distancing practices, it is likely the number of students who contract the virus in school will increase.  In addition, the likelihood of many students having to quarantine will increase, forcing students to take their AP tests in June instead of May.  With the hybrid system working so well, it is not worth these risks to bring students back to Schreiber for full, in-person education for only a few weeks.