As time has passed, schools and businesses are beginning to open up across the country, including in Missouri. However, with Missouri covid-19 cases continuing to be on the rise, the question of whether opening back up so quickly is safe remains.
In Missouri, many businesses are open again and an increasing number of people are going out. However, the numbers do not look so good. According to the New York Times, “At least 95 new coronavirus deaths and 1,890 new cases were reported in Missouri on October 17. Over the past week, there have been an average of 1,779 cases per day, an increase of 24 percent from the average two weeks earlier.” As shown by this data, the new cases in Missouri are continuing to rise, which means safety precautions must still be taken. In St. Louis County, the numbers are not exactly amazing either. Also according to the New York Times, there have been 1,469 new cases in the past 7 days in St. Louis County.
Despite these numbers, many schools within St. Louis County, especially private schools, returned to in-person learning at the beginning of the school year, while other districts, Clayton included, began the school year in a fully virtual option, with a tentative plan to return to in-person learning as the school year progressed.
The School District of Clayton has been making careful decisions based on guidance from the health department. The elementary schools in the Clayton School District have already transitioned back to in-person learning, and the district announced this weekend that middle and high school students will return to school on November 9. Clayton Superintendent Dr. Sean Doherty sent an email to Clayton’s parents on October 16, detailing the new plan. “Our current plan for middle and high school brings students back November 9 in a blended learning model, with half of the students attending school in the morning and the other half attending school in the afternoon each day with a break in between sessions. We will also maintain our Learning@Home option for students for the remainder of the semester,” Doherty wrote. However, this newest plan may not be the safest for Clayton at this time. This plan has raised concerns among both students and teachers.
With the number of cases only increasing in St. Louis, going back to school would not be safe in my opinion
— Rucha Kelkar
The new Return to Learn plan has put many students in a difficult position, especially seniors. “Although I’ve been missing school and the social interaction that comes with it, I am extremely concerned about going back to school right now,” said CHS senior Rosie Gaugush. Students are forced to choose between ensuring the safety of themselves and their families and having an enjoyable school year. Some students have already chosen to continue learning at home even when the district returns in person. “Since my grandmother and mom are immunocompromised, I have decided not to come back to school on November 9th. With the number of cases only increasing in St. Louis, going back to school would not be safe in my opinion,” senior Rucha Kelkar said. Though this is a difficult decision, students like Kelkar are choosing to ensure the safety of their families during this time. “For the past seven months, I have taken social distancing, wearing masks, and quarantining very seriously. Going back to school will disrupt all the effort I have put in protecting my family’s health. For this reason, I am choosing to continue with online school. When a vaccine is created, I look forward to coming back to school!” said Kelkar. The timeline for a vaccine is still quite unknown, however, many families are waiting for a vaccine before they return their children to school. Safety must be of the utmost importance, however, the impact online school has had on students is definitely present. Not being able to interact with classmates or teachers face to face has serious challenges, and ensuring the school year is both safe and enjoyable will be a struggle for the entire district. “I’m excited to see everyone but I’m also just extremely curious about the safety measures and hoping we’re able to have a semi-enjoyable senior year,” said senior Madalyn Schroeder.
This school year has also presented an extremely difficult challenge for teachers. With online school, they have had to adapt their teaching to fit the virtual plan, and now have to be prepared to change at the drop of a hat depending on what the district decides. Teachers have had the nearly impossible job of attempting to teach in a semi-normal manner while talking to a computer that mostly shows black boxes with the names of students. Despite these challenges, returning to in-person learning at this time raises concerns for many teachers. “While I desperately look forward to the time when we can be back to in-person schooling, it just seems like the number of new cases of COVID-19 is currently heading in the wrong direction to start in-person school right now,” said CHS psychology teacher David Aiello. Teachers and students have also adjusted to online school, and returning to in-person would be another difficult decision. “I feel that teachers, students, and to some degree families have established routines and procedures for doing school online, and to disrupt that with new technologies and procedures this late in the semester adds another layer of discomfort and adjustment to an already difficult situation,” said Aiello.
While students, teachers, and families hope to return to in-person school as soon as possible, making the right decision regarding COVID-19 and the safety of the entire community is vital. It is important that the district continue to carefully consider and monitor COVID cases and make the best decision for the health and safety of the community, and students and parents must continue to take the virus seriously and follow safety precautions and guidelines.