High Schools Should Be Remote During High Covid Risk
I’m a High School teacher who teaches in person, every day. I put on a mask, and teach 6 feet away from students who are themselves masked and sitting 6 feet away from each other. The school I teach at complies with covid protocols, though the teachers in my school have varying levels of commitment to those protocols.
Nonetheless, in compliance with state orders, we all wear masks.
Sometimes lthose masks sometimes fall down, sometimes showing a small amount of nose, other times falling down completely under the mask wearer’s nose. If left unsupervised many of the students would allow the masks to become a chin decoration, to be correctly placed only when a teacher comes near.
In the classroom student desks 6 feet away from each other. For the duration of our classes, our students are socially distant. But they regularly forget to stay 6 feet away from each other when they are walking in the hallways, or when they are together in other common spaces. This is especially during lunch, and other less well supervised times.
They’re not bad kids, but they are teenagers. And that means that most of them have not yet developed the kind of sensibilities which would facilitate a more careful observance of Covid hygiene.
During a time of high community spread the most dangerous people are the asymptomatic spreaders. They would not know that they have it, and they are far too often casual about following covid protocols.
Our teenage students are just such people. They put us, the adults in their schools, at great risk and they contribute to the increase in community spread.
High school students are different from other, younger, students. Younger students seem to be less vulnerable to the virus and they are more innately compliant to covid protocols. They are a significantly lesser risk.
Moreover, younger students have a greater need for in person school, and parents who need to work have a greater need for their younger children to be in school, and supervised, during the day.
Older students, teenager, pose a greater risk AND have a lesser need for in person learning. The cost benefit ratio is different when the student is a teen than it is when the student is young.
Those of us who are still teaching in person are doing so because our administrators believe that the risk is exaggerated, or they believe that they can significantly mitigate the risk. Even if that was true during times of low community spread, it is not true now. Community spread is high. Positivity is in double digits, people are catching and spreading covid in increasing numbers, and the number of available ICU beds is falling precipitiously. It is a dangerous situation.
Nonetheless keeping all age groups open for in person learning, seems to have become a perverse point of pride. There is a sort of swagger to it, and most of these administrations will not allow us to teachers return to remote learning unless public health authorities require it.
Unless authorites issue an order for remote learning, we teachers will be in person with extremely risky population and that extremely risky population will contribute to community spread. They will leave their homes every day to travel to and from school. They will stop in convenience stores, in grocery stores, in pharmacies. These teens, and the adults who teach them, will be in the community 5 days a week.
Until we can all get immunized there is only one way to mitigate this, only one way to stop the growth of Covid in our community. And that is to severely reduce the opportunities for transmission by reducing the number and length of possible interactions. That means forcing the high schools to go to remote learning until a substantial percentage of the high school population is vaccinated.
I write this to ask the authorities to order High Schools to go remote until vaccinations and other public health measures create a lower community spread.