Jonnalagadda (11) questions decision to reopen

Purvi Jonnalagadda

The United Kingdom’s variant of the coronavirus — which has recently begun to spread throughout the United States — has only increased the danger of the virus. Moreover, with other variants such as the South African and Brazilian ones arising, the uncertainty surrounding the virus and its duration only increases. According to The Washington Post, experts are even suggesting people should “double mask,” saying that n-95 or surgical masks may be more effective against new variants as they will inevitably become widespread in the US. Consequently, I have observed many people at school this week wearing surgical masks or n-95’s. Still, the majority of the community wears cloth masks — whether by personal preference or because of a lack of access to surgical masks — and I have begun to question the administration’s decision to reopen school. I understand that in-person learning is undoubtedly more effective than online learning, yet I wonder whether we are ultimately jeopardizing the safety of students and faculty as a result.


When I read the email Dr. Kelly sent the Middle Division and Upper Division concerning the new COVID-19 guidelines, I wondered how seriously students would take them. Many students still convene outside of school without masks, and even in school, students gather in small circles. When we began the school year, everyone was initially cautious — but the fear of infection quickly subsided. During break, students would cluster in groups on the field and many would talk loudly without a mask while eating. I fear the same will happen again as we return to school this week and in the following weeks. Now, however, there is a greater danger for immunocompromised members of the community and students with older family members. They are already at a higher risk of becoming infected, and as the transmissibility continues to increase, their physical health can be severely affected, and they will be more likely to experience stronger COVID-19 symptoms if infected. 


Moreover, if a few people are exposed to the virus, many students will need to attend school virtually. Sitting through school online while the majority of the class is in-person is even more difficult than participating in HM Online with the rest of the community because students must stare at a computer the entire day and are unable to converse with friends or classmates. Especially as more students are exposed to the virus and many more are forced to quarantine because of contact tracing, it would make more sense to keep school online so students do not miss out on learning or socializing.


As the virus becomes increasingly transmissible, I believe that school will close before spring break, causing an unexpected shift to HM Online 2.0. The schedule changes cause students anxiety as they cautiously await an email titled: Remote Instruction. These shifts also leave students without a sense of routine which results in an inefficient work ethic upon the return to in-person school. Online, students tend to be more carefree, which makes the abrupt schedule changes that much more difficult to adjust to. This is a cycle that will not end until COVID-19 subsides. 


Of course I love seeing my friends and teachers in person. I also respect the administration for its tireless efforts to ensure that we can attend school in person. If students adhered to COVID-19 regulations by staying six feet apart from others, using sanitizer regularly, talking only with a mask on, and following the same rules outside of school, there would be a greater chance of school remaining open. However, because students do not always respect the guidelines, it would be best to reopen school when the virus has truly dissipated or at least until a majority of the school’s community is vaccinated. That way, students can be exposed to a sense of normalcy and consistency without the fear of school closing once more.