Schools and COVID: Should we ever open up?

Schools+and+COVID%3A+Should+we+ever+open+up%3F

Stone Wolfgang, Reporter

“I think it would be great if schools opened up soon, but of course the safety of everyone should be the main priority.”- Yasmine Shubber (‘22)

This is the debate that all students,teachers, and administrators have been having for the last 8 months. For me, this entire time of Covid has been reflected in cups of coffee and seconds of staring at my countless zoom sessions. As my thoughts drifted away from my US History class I started asking myself when I will be able to reunite with my friends and teachers in person. This like many other topics has become a somewhat controversial and largely political discussion to have. So I decided to let that fact come first and to share all ideas and possibilities. I will be having the options be put into three ideas, having an online school, having school 100% in person, and having a straight line right down the middle.

First online school. I like many other students at Bothell have become frustrated with quiet breakout rooms, un-interactive lessons, and annoying profile photos. According to the Washington Post, “Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.” This is an alarming fact and it is not too far off to say that there already a 30% increase in suicide rates from 2000-2018 has certainly been affecting our current status. While being online does have great benefits in lowering the amount of person-to-person infection, it is strenuous on our mental and social health and there needs to be a stronger option.

In terms of 100% in-person school, the facts don’t lie. Without proper cleaning and social distancing, the facts have been saying that this will create another wave in infection rates for students and our more at risk teachers. It should be mentioned that children naturally have a low chance of passing away from this disease. According to the CDC, “The United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.” These facts are extremely important and highly glossed over when discussing Covid-19. It should also be argued that if a student has special medical needs or a teacher is at high risk for getting this disease then they should have alternate routes for class.

This brings me to my final and arguably most possible point of having schools open partially. Again according to the CDC, “The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.” Washington highly needs to debate having a split schedule that accommodates both online and in-person learning. In King County, there have been 23,438 cases and a slowly growing 799 deaths. These deaths are nothing to scoff at, but we need to contemplate a route for students to have stronger mental health by interacting with other students.This would also help have students create relationships instead of through a screen. Max Paterson (‘22) said, “I think they should open up gradually because if they open up too fast that risks the cases spiking which could result in going back to online learning. I think the virus is scary and a problem, however, to a certain point we have to realize that we have to live our lives and the time we spend in quarantine we can never get back.” Ultimately the fate of our schools does not lie in the power of the students and faculty but ultimately in the Governors, Mayors, and School administration.

I worry about the fate of Washington if our schools are closed at the 1 year mark, and I also worry what that might do for the student who sits in the back of the class and has no human interaction. How will their mental health be affected?