Why We Should Come Back to School in January: The Evidence

Sophia Robertson, Editor-in-Chief

“You’re not coming back in January,” said my mom, my friend, and even some teachers who have their own speculations. I’m optimistic, and I have evidence to support my belief that GCS high schoolers will go back to school in January. 

Younger kids, very young elementary school students (PreK to second grade) who need help to do basic sanitary activities like sneezing into their elbow or washing their hands, went back to school in November. Many of these kids may not understand everything that is going on, so it’s hard for them to practice safe activities to lessen the spread. With that being said, it only makes sense that high school students who are more responsible, or at least have a better grasp at what is going on, should come back to school too. Additionally, there is a very small spread of COVID-19 among youth. According to the World Health Organization, “few outbreaks involving children or schools have been reported. However, the small number of outbreaks reported among teaching or associated staff to date suggests that spread of COVID-19 within educational settings may be limited.” If 30 year old NFL players can tackle each other in a stadium filled with people, why can’t we, as youth in the lower risk category, go back to get our education? Of course, those who have other conditions or do not feel comfortable going back can stay home, but we need to at least open the schools up for those who want and need to go back.

We left school in March, yet cases did not drastically drop as a result of this. Even though cases have always been very high in the area and New York City is filled with crowds, students are already back to learning in-person. Greensboro’s population is a fraction of NYC’s population, so it seems likely that Guilford County can manage bringing students back. One of the top medical leaders in the United States, Doctor Anthony Fauci, said that despite his prior claims, going back to school is the right path to take. If hospitals do not stabilize, Dr. Fauci said that bars and restaurants will be closing, not schools. All of us have seen the mental health effects that COVID-19 has had on everyone, especially the youth of America whose mental health is already poor. Looking at the same walls in our houses every day, watching a screen for hours, working on stressful school assignments, and not being able to see people that we love is very tolling. Some students don’t even have food at home, while others may struggle through poor relationships with the family members who they constantly see. To name one specific example of the mental health effects, we can look at the case of a Maine student. Only a few weeks ago, a 16 year old football player committed suicide as a result of his isolation. He was so excited to be on the football team, only to have his dreams crushed by the virus.

Many students participating in online learning are failing, or at the very least doing worse than they would be than if they were in person. Some students don’t want to speak up in class to ask questions, while others simply don’t understand the material without getting face to face lessons. Grimsley students began a petition to make first quarter grades count towards second quarter grades because, according to Rachael Stephany who started the petition, “Though accommodations have been made to help those who struggled in the first quarter, many of us do not feel like enough accommodations have been made to help us in the second.” As of Thursday, 673 students signed the petition.

In addition, classes will be small at 50% capacity, allowing for proper social distancing. Let’s say my class has 24 students on a regular day. Approximately 12 of those students will be in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday and the other 12 will be there on Thursday and Friday. However, that’s not exactly true because many students have already opted out for going back to in-person school this year. That could bring the number down drastically, to a small class of maybe four, or it could only eliminate a few students, to maybe a class of ten. Even so, students should be able to maintain a proper distance from one another because of how small the classes will be.

We should also feel more confident about going back to school because a vaccine is being distributed. A woman in the United Kingdom received the first dose, and others followed her lead. Though it will still take time, this should begin to clear the virus up. If higher risk people get vaccinated, deaths related to COVID-19 should decrease, and we may be able to see a life similar to 2019 and other pre-COVID years. It is crucial that students go back to school, so GCS is taking many precautions. To name a few, there will be mandatory mask wearing, hand sanitizer available throughout the school, and signs reminding students of proper hygiene. I have hope and confidence that I will see the inside of Page in January.

 

Part two of this article will be posted tomorrow, so be on the lookout for an exclusive interview with the Chief Academic Officer of Guilford County Schools.