Coronavirus in Schools: Is the Risk Worth It?

Since March, the novel coronavirus has been tearing apart communities around the world — and those of American schools are no exception. With nearly 200,000 cases nationwide as of early November, the country took initiative to prevent people from maintaining close contact and further spreading the virus. Since schools require keeping hundreds of people in close quarters, the obvious option was for them to shut down.

“Our public schools would be amongst our most dangerous breeding grounds for [the coronavirus],” said Lee Adler, an expert in education at Cornell University. “In a school setting […] there could be 20 adults in a faculty of 100, who are carriers of some sort that may pass the virus to the children or to their colleagues to take home.”

But, learning must go on. Upon shutting down, schools around the world kept their gears turning by allowing students to learn from the safety of their own homes. Faces on screens replaced friends, and Google replaced teachers. This may have prevented the virus from spreading in schools, but this solution brought its own set of problems. Students have a difficult time learning in isolation.

“With remote learning, it’s been hard to pay attention, to learn, or be focused,” says Julia Aronovich, junior at Millburn High School. “It feels like I’m in my room the whole day [..] I realized that the little interactions throughout my day were really important, and being home all the time and not having that has affected me.”

Entering fall, many schools across the country took the next step of offering hybrid learning — half online and half in-school — in an attempt to allow for some social interaction. Most students liked the opportunity to get a taste of their former lives, at least originally.

“I wanted to go back to school to reintroduce a little bit of normalcy,” said Aronovich.

However, only a small percentage of students have returned to school. Despite the added social benefit, many students still question whether schools have taken adequate measures to make school truly safe. Since social distancing procedures have become progressively more lenient, this has developed into a widespread concern.

“During the spring, everyone was staying home,” explained Aronovich. “And then, during the summer and going into the school year, I noticed that not everyone was being as careful anymore. [My family] always treated the virus very seriously, which is why I decided not to go back to school anymore.”

As of now, many students agree that returning to school isn’t a viable option — and it may remain that way for a while. As long as the extent to which social distancing is upheld remains uncertain, most people are skeptical of reintegrating in-person school into their agendas.

Aronovich explains: “I just want to make sure that in every class, everyone is respecting [health precautions] outside of school as well. For now, I’ll stay home.”

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