Ah, at long last. This was not the original article’s release date. But what hasn’t been delayed in 2020?
Back in October, a simple question was sent out to a variety of students: How do you feel about returning to school on November 2nd? The circumstances were much different then. A choice was issued to students: return to school, or stay home and lose affiliation with all programs. That was met with major uproar as many felt it wasn’t safe to return to school, but also didn’t want to lose the sports, performing arts, IB classes, and other school affiliated programs they had shined in throughout their high school careers. The reopening date was pushed back to January 4th. Hence, this story was also pushed back.
Then, Tracy High was faced as a horrible turn of events. The pandemic reared its ugly head and it is the worst it has ever been in California. San Joaquin County is back in the purple COVID tier, worse than the red tier in which students would have returned to school in November. It is widely considered a positive thing that Tracy High avoided returning to school right before the pandemic would have created the most dangerous situation for public health we’ve seen yet in this difficult year, but the concern has also been raised that it leaves us even less likely to ever return to school, makes us powerless to make that decision for ourselves, and has created even more uncertainty and chaos in a year full of both.
The uncertainty has never been higher as when this article is being written. Today, December 3, all THS sports are on hold. A board meeting is being held to decide if students should even return January 4. There are talks of a third option being added for when students return to school similar to the current distanced learning format, but this has not been formally announced. The always changing environment of the pandemic has left everyone completely uncertain about what their schooling will look like after winter break. We ended up learning we would still be in distanced learning indefinitely.
This article does not exist to address what is going to happen after winter break. The writer of this article, like all of you, has no idea what the circumstances of the pandemic will allow. No one at this paper is going to pretend we can predict the future even if some experts might.
What this article is going to address is the feelings of the students. Since students are not part of the decision making process either, a general feeling of being unheard may weigh over all students, and the last thing people need is weight during a pandemic. These feelings also may appear to be polarized. On the surface, it may seem that two “sides” have emerged: those that believe the return to school is vitally necessary for schooling this year and must be the first priority, and those who believe that it is unsafe to return to school when COVID is in the red tier and beyond. Because of this polarization that seems to be apparent at the surface, students may feel unable to understand the other way of thinking that appears to be so different from theirs.
And yet, when the interviews from October were revisited, a common theme emerged from every opinion that was submitted. Everyone just wants what is best for all the humans in Tracy, California.
One student stated she is eager to return to school because, “distanced learning has been really troublesome, and [she is] eager to be able to actually play music and talk to [her] teachers in person”.
The effects she described has been seen widely. The unfamiliar, difficult and labor intensive schooling format that has been distanced learning has weighed on all students. The lack of social interaction has also been extremely difficult, and the distanced format has limited the types of learning activities that teachers can employ. All around, distanced learning has been very difficult on everyone and it would be easier and more enjoyable to return to school.
But, at what cost? Returning before the pandemic is completely under control would risk the well beings of students and their high risk family members. Another student feels that students, “have to choose between having an education or protecting our families, an ultimatum that never should have existed.”
This is another widely held idea. No matter what precautions are taken, it seems that the risk of spreading COVID and harming students and their immediate families is inevitable. The only way to completely avoid said harm being caused by in-person learning would be to stay home.
Everyone acknowledges this. However, some see the return to school as worth the risk. Some feel that grades are suffering more than health would, like yet another student who said, “for a lot of people online school really just doesn’t work for them and honestly has been affecting their grades negatively.”
Mental, emotional, and situational health is surely just as important as physical health, but finding a balance between these two types of health during the pandemic has proved to be a nearly impossible task.
But, some students question if a return to school is even the answer for mental health. One final student interviewed, who admitted she had COVID anxiety developed from a general germ anxiety, feels her mental and emotional well being would be worsened with a return to school. She admits, “I have a germ problem. One that has existed for years before this pandemic hit. This virus has only worsened my problem. With that, the news of the school reopening is terrifying.”
The coronavirus pandemic is truly an impossible situation. But rest assured, everyone cares about the well being of students as a whole. Everyone cares about both mental and physical health of all students. The least people can do in these difficult times is acknowledge that, and listen to each other, even the people they disagree with.
Everyone’s pandemic concerns are more common than they are different. Though the methods are different, everyone is trying to achieve the same goal.
The people who disagree with you care for you, too. You may wish they showed it differently, but they are trying in the way they know how.
So care for them too.