Editorial: Desk shields are a nuisance for students, but must be accepted

Editorial: Desk shields are a nuisance for students, but must be accepted

When students returned from spring break, they walked into their first period class confronted by a classroom full of desk shields.  Despite the news that Schreiber will be moving from a hybrid model  to  fully in-person, the main talk of the school was the ineffective, pesky, and annoying desk shields.

The shields, made out of a plexiglass-like substance, had already been installed at the elementary school level back in September.  At the high school, one would expect slightly larger desk shields, as the desks need to accommodate an open laptop, binder, notebook, or water bottle, as well as a proportionately larger teenager.  What the student body found on their first day back after break were poorly stuck-on desk shields with sharp edges that covered at least one-third of the desk space.  While the school district has good intentions for bringing everyone back to school to foster social interaction and provide a test run for next year, at this point most students are currently concerned with fourth quarter exams and grades; the smaller desk space as a result from the added  shields is not conducive to a strong learning environment.

In addition, the glare reflected by the desk shields is distracting and makes it difficult to concentrate on the SmartBoard from certain seats in the classroom.  Looking through a shield is like being in a “fun house,” seeing yourself, the board, and the back of the classroom multiple times from different angles.  As a result of the glare, students will often look at the board around the shields, further defeating the purpose of the $200,000 investment, while also creating an unsafe learning environment.  With desks only three feet apart, students feel uncomfortable enough; combined with people leaning closer to one another, many students may opt to go fully remote for the remainder of the school year to avoid the discomfort.

Furthermore, the desk shields muffle students’ voices.  With masks already making it difficult for teachers, those at home, and those in different parts of the classroom to hear their peers, the desk shields may nearly eliminate thoughtful class discussion and necessary participation.  At this crucial time of the year, with AP exams, Regents, and finals looming in the near future, this added issue will further disrupt class learning.

Lastly, if the desk shields are so vital for student’s safety, why didn’t the school install them on desks in the cafeteria and the commons, where students take their masks off to eat lunch?  Although desk shields may add a feeling of security for students having trepidations about returning to school full-time, it is known that they do not prevent the virus from spreading.  Also, the maintenance of the shields will be time-consuming and hard, as they are bound to be scratched, smeared, and separated from their adhesives on the desks.

All in all, the desk shields are sharp, poorly installed, too small, have a distracting glare, and muffle the voices of students.  It is too soon for all students to return in-person (aside from the seniors), especially with the recent spike in cases and the impending academic tests.  Although many students would agree that the risks of returning to school outweigh the benefits, the return to fully in-person classes and, yes, the desk shields, will have to be accepted and adapted to.