When Will We Go Back to School?

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Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

As the days of online learning play on repeat, students such as Eva Reyes (10) wonder when in-person school will return. She expressed, “online [school] is getting tiring as it’s hard to sit and look at a computer for a long time and learning feels the same for every class.”

Lauren Ng, Staff Writer

  Remember how it felt to arrive at school every morning, walk to your locker between classes, and talk with your friends during lunch? That was 250 days ago. Since then, school has been a blur of Zoom lag, Google Classroom, and giving a dozen thumbs-ups per day. This leaves us with a few burning questions in mind: when are we really going back to school, and what will it look like when we do? 

   The Torrance Unified School District has been following the guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH). Mrs. Murata, West High’s Principal, summarized current regulations of campus capacity: “Previously we were only allowed to bring back up to 10% of our student body.” But as the result of an LACDPH protocol update, the school is now allowed to “bring back up to 25%.” However, it will take time and adjustment to work up to this capacity.

   West High has two learning pods designated for students struggling the most in online learning. Mrs. Murata explained, “those pods can only have up to 12 students each… they’re both a little bit below that.” In other words, about 1% of the student body is on campus at the moment. Mrs. Murata also added that “we’re working on a couple of additional pods that we’re planning to bring back some time before winter break.”  

   As the number of students on campus gradually increases, the most recent protocols will remain, along with appropriate modifications. Mrs. Murata outlined the school day of a learning pod student: “[Students] have to complete a pre-screener, answering questions regarding whether or not they have symptoms, or if they have been exposed to someone who has symptoms, or [if] they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID.” Due to the small number of students on campus, the school is currently able to take temperatures every morning upon arrival.

   Means of ingress and egress are also being controlled: only one entrance and exit is available for students, and certain staircases are designated for upwards and downwards travel to control traffic. In addition, students clean their Chromebooks and desks before and after each use, and classrooms are sprayed with disinfectant by school custodians every day.

   Aside from class, lunch still poses important questions about student safety. The students of the two learning pods “are required to sit 15 feet apart from each other… they aren’t allowed to move from the area until they’ve put their masks back on,” Mrs. Murata said. To further reduce contact, “lunchtime is only outside and each pod has their own cafeteria.”

Protocols such as these are still subject to change, especially once a larger number of students are granted permission to be on campus.

   However, a steady increase in the number of on-campus students is not guaranteed. Daily rates of infection in the U.S. are hitting all-time highs. Governor Newsom tweeted on Monday: “Due to the alarming increases we are seeing in COVID-19 cases, CA is pulling an emergency brake. To slow the spread, 41 counties ––94% of California’s population–– will now be in purple, the most restrictive tier.” 

   Being vigilant with COVID protocols may be more important now than ever before. Mrs. Murata explained, “I see a lot of students who always have a mask on, but it’s often under their nose, or under their chin, or around their neck… Some students have created their own pods of people that they feel safe unmasking around, but those are the kinds of things that are passing the virus around.”

   The short answer? For the majority of West High students, an official arrival back at school will not be occurring soon. A relative state of normalcy still seems a ways down the road.

 

* Disclaimer: Recent developments may have changed since press time.