Six months ago, COVID-19 began rapidly spreading across the globe, putting the world on lockdown. It started with self-quarantine and soon after, cities and states started issuing stay-at-home orders. Now, it seems like people have disregarded the pandemic, as there are only some cities and counties across America with social distancing requirements and mask mandates.
Since the start of the state’s reopening in June, which came with a growing spike in cases, Florida has yet to take any further steps, besides occasional county curfews, to stop this outbreak. The state has had a total of 671,201 cases, with 165,147 just in Miami-Dade, according to the Florida Department of Health. Due to the thousands of cases per week, schools, especially one with over 2,700 students and faculty like Palmetto, should not open.
Although parents, with their childrens’ inputs , previously answered a survey about returning to school, there was a clear difference in the results of the first and second questionnaires. The initial survey sent out included an option for hybrid learning and all-online. This meant that there would be two different groups of students going into school or learning remotely in the same class. These two groups, A and B, would rotate days doing learning in-person or online. This choice enables the classes that occur in-person to have a smaller population, thus allowing the school to better enforce social distancing and prioritize safety. In the second survey, this choice was not available, meaning it will no longer be considered when schools return in-person. By removing the potential hybrid learning option, it increases the amount of people in school each day, which consequently increases the traffic in hallways and in classes.
Last school year, after transitioning into the new building from one with bigger classrooms, the desks were positioned closer together. Comparing my class sizes from the 2019-2020 school year to the 2020-2021 school year, they are about the same, ranging from about 20 to over 30 students. If my peers in each class are returning to school in Phase Two, I see it virtually impossible to maintain social distance in classrooms.
Another reason why schools should not reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 5 is the uncertainty of COVID-19. The first case in Wuhan, China was in December 2019, making it less than a year since the pandemic officially started spreading. Within this short amount of time, there has not been enough research and time to formulate an approved vaccine or consistently accurate testing. The only certain information about preventing the contraction and spread of the virus is mask-wearing and social distancing, which may not be possible while in classrooms. The reality of COVID-19 and returning to school is that there is an insufficient amount of concrete information to ensure the safety of teachers and students.
The country says protecting teachers and students is their priority, but the rush to start in-person learning makes it seem otherwise. Instead of going back to school immediately, it would be better to start on a later date, when the county and world are more prepared.
Since the start of 2020, a pandemic has overwhelmed us with difficult tasks we never expected. In late March, we began remote learning with zero knowledge of what the future would hold. The first day of remote learning, I felt as if nothing was easy to understand, especially since this was the time of the year we were supposed to focus more on important Advanced Placement exams taken in May.
Before we knew it, the pandemic shifted our ability to perform well academically in school. Eventually, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carvalho, announced that schools would remain in Phase One, remote learning, until late September, where they would then discuss the best protocols for the safety of students, faculty and staff. The original schedule for Phase Two, set to commence on Oct. 5, is a good idea for those who find remote learning too frustrating of a learning environment.
From the first day, school started off poorly. The K-12 program was implemented for both students and teachers as a better way to learn online than Microsoft Teams or Zoom. While at first we thought of this as a successful beginning to our virtual school year, it was not. There were huge technical difficulties that led to students even missing their entire first periods. This went on for more than a week when, finally, the School Board announced that a 16-year-old teen had caused some of the issues. Finding this out raised a lot of questions as to why and how a minor was able to interfere with a public learning platform that should have included efficient security.
Evidently, utilizing remote learning has been a problem. Technology does not always work the way we want it to. This just adds to the argument for how insufficient online learning is and why we should return to school as soon as possible.
As we may know, social distancing will not happen fully in schools, but masks are required, lunch is likely at students’ desks and teachers will give assignments for students to work on from their laptops to avoid handling papers . This seems better than isolating students in their bedrooms while they stay online for seven hours listening to lectures. The pandemic has caused a lot of mental health issues for students, so it does not seem valid to learn in an environment that makes it difficult to learn.
Families are also at stake with online learning. Parents are forced to help their young children learn. This brings problems because not all parents are working at home and therefore cannot be continuously checking on their kids. Also, some professionals, such as psychologists, cannot have children interrupt their meetings, as it violates ethical rules. Even so, working mothers would have to make a tense decision that may lead them to quit their job according to University of Arkansa economist Gema Zamarro. Single parents are at a much higher risk of losing their job when they have to juggle taking care of their kids during their time at work and having to focus on their career. Not only that, there are also extra things a parent must pay if their job takes a massive amount of time of pure silence. Some things parents would have to work to aid their children is paying extras for a tutor or babysitter.
Since we are starting to adjust to our daily routines once again, even as the pandemic interferes, we should also be able to adjust to going back to school. Going back to school will benefit all of us by allowing us to learn. Parents will be appreciative to put their children back in order to work hard and come back home with less stress and anxiety from risking their jobs. We must remain mentally safe as well as physically safe, so we must head back to school.