Pro-Con Opinion: Should we reopen JHS?
January 5, 2021
Opinion: Let’s Open Up Jesuit
With Christmas break fast approaching, Jesuit is rounding the corner on it’s ninth month of digital learning. I think it’s time to return to in-person learning.
With COVID-19 raging throughout the United States, it seems impossible for schools to remain open. In addition, Oregon has been having record high case counts recently, the most being on December 4 when over 2000 people tested positive. So why would I think that Jesuit, along with other Portland schools, should open?
I think that kids should be in school not because the danger of the virus is low. The coronavirus is a very dangerous virus, and as a community we need to take it seriously by social distancing and wearing a mask. But, that does not mean we cannot go to school safely if the correct measures are put in place.
In other places, students have already returned to the classroom for in-person learning. For example, schools in New York City closed just last month after being open for almost eight weeks. Despite cases rising back up to their April highs in the state, elementary schools will return to hybrid learning on December 7. And outside of the states, as the city of Toronto, Ontario entered its second lockdown in November, schools were one of the only places to remain open, while bars and restaurants closed (New York Times).
So what does this mean? Why are all these different places reopening their school doors while Oregon has kept theirs shut? Simple, other places realized that schools are not the cause of spread; the state of Oregon has failed to see that.
I went to Washington Square Mall the other day, and it was a packed house. Although masks were being worn throughout the building (by most), I had to dodge my way through the crowd to keep my distance as much as possible from others. But, as I was doing it, I had a moment where I stopped and looked around at the mayhem and thought, “Why is this allowed to happen? Why is this mall allowed to be open at seemingly maximum capacity while our schools, who would take the necessary steps to reopen safely, are not allowed to open?”
Not only am I calling for a reopen to schools, but so are prominent health experts. The CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said during a press conference that schools need to be open because they are not what’s causing the spread.
“There is extensive data that we have…[that confirms]…K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning and they can do it safely and they can do it responsibly,” Redfield said (C-SPAN). “The infections that we’ve identified in schools when they’ve been evaluated were not acquired in schools. They were actually acquired in the community and in the household.”
Not only is the CDC director on my side, but even Dr. Anthony Fauci said that to slow case rates, bars and restaurants should be closed and schools should be open.
“Close the bars and keep the schools open,” Fauci said. “If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected” (Business Insider).
But what about those who are immunocompromised or who are seeing immunocompromised people? Or what about those who just don’t feel comfortable returning to school? For those who don’t feel comfortable returning to in-person learning, an option of online learning should still be available for them. This would allow each student to decide when they would like to return to in-person learning, appeasing those who are both for and against it.
Again, I would like to reiterate that I am not downplaying the severity of the virus. My family and I have been following CDC guidelines to the T, and I also have grandparents that I visit with a mask on, so I would not advocate for a return to school if I didn’t believe that we could do it safely.
While I understand concerns expressed by individuals who may not feel comfortable returning to in-person learning, national health experts have recommended that we do so, and I think we should listen to what they say.
New York Times: How Toronto Plans to Keep Schools Open Amid Its Second Lockdown
New York Times: New York City to Close Public Schools Again as Virus Cases Rise
Opinion: We Should Not Open Up Jesuit
A few months ago, I would have agreed that school should be back in session. This opinion was not backed by any research but simply a selfish musing. School has been closed since March 2020 and we have now endured almost nine months of quarantine and isolation. While I would love to return to school to see my peers and be able to participate in typical senior year activities, I know it is not safe.
With COVID-19 spreading so rapidly, the idea of returning to school is in the far future. While masks, home room lunch periods, and health screenings are necessary precautions, they would only limit the spread.
The requirement for students to wear a mask at all times may be helpful, however, there is no guarantee that masks will in fact stay intact through the school day. Students will need to remove their masks to eat and drink and often masks are removed in restroom settings. Teachers cannot be watching students at all times and we do not have the resources to ensure that masks stay on during school hours.
However, even if students keep their masks on at all times, studies show that masks are not 100% effective. In an article published by Stephanie Pappias titled “Do face masks really reduce coronavirus spread?” the effectiveness of different kinds of mask is explained.
“CDC also does not recommend surgical masks for the general public. These masks don’t seal against the face but do include non-woven polypropylene layers that are moisture resistant. In a surgical mask, about 70% of the outside air moves through the mask and about 30% travels around the sides,” Pappias wrote. “That leaves fabric masks, which currently are recommended for general use by the CDC. Fabric masks also allow air in around the sides, but lack non-woven, moisture-repelling layers. They impede only about 2% of airflow in.”
No matter what mask is worn, there is always some airflow that is let in. As Stephanine Pappias explains, you may be at a lower risk depending on which mask you choose to wear, but the underlying fact is that masks do not work all of the time. The only method that is proven to be 100% effective is to stay at home.
Masks are to be used as an add on for safety. It is a common misconception that masks are the only precaution that people must take. Stephanie Pappias elaborates on this.
“‘Putting a face mask on does not mean that you stop the other practices’” Pappias wrote quoting Assistant Director of Public Health in the Office for Science and Technology Policy May C. Chu. “‘It does not mean you get closer to people, it does not mean you don’t have to wash your hands as often and you can touch your face. All of that still is in place, this is just an add-on.’”
At school it will be difficult to maintain a reliable distance from every student or faculty member that you will pass through the day. As May C. Chu stated, it is not enough to just wear a mask, you must still maintain social distances.
In an ideal world, masks always work. Even so, students are still at risk once they leave school and are exposed to those who are not following CDC protocol. While you may think that you are interacting only with your “bubble,” your bubble is often larger than you think. If even one person interacts with someone without their mask who is not in your bubble, they could risk contracting and spreading the virus.
There is also a large opinion that even though we are not able to go back to school that we should be able to participate in sports. In my opinion, we should focus on getting back to school first. With constant motion (and in some cases physical contact) it is easy for masks to slip while in close proximity, not to mention athletes need to lower their mask to drink water. In the event that an athletes mask does slip while they are infected with the virus, they could spread it to their whole team, who will then likely spread it even further. This fact is evidenced by the numerous college football games that have been cancelled due to COVID-19. While I am disappointed to potentially be missing my track season, as I am sure many other students are, it is too risky to even practice.
Of course, I realize that the greater majority of high school students are young, healthy, and will not be deeply impacted by the virus. This is not the reason to take precautions. Many students live with or frequently come in contact with those who are at high risk. I visit my grandparents often and know because they are compromised, I need to be extra careful. Even if you don’t, someone you come in contact with might so it is important to always be cautious.
The only way it is safe to return to school, sports, and all other activities is when there is an effective vaccine that is easily accessible. Without one, an airborne virus is too difficult to contain with a group of people as large as a high school. I know that everyone wants to return to school, but right now, it is not safe.