Should We Go Back Online?

As cases spike due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, many are wondering whether or not schools should stay home. However, cases will continue rising unless school goes back online, and student voices fight against staying open. Dominic Disloquez (11) commented, “I understand that education is important but this is one of the worst times for COVID, and there are too many families that are suffering from this.”

Art/Photo by Westley Kim

As cases spike due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, many are wondering whether or not schools should stay home. However, cases will continue rising unless school goes back online, and student voices fight against staying open. Dominic Disloquez (11) commented, “I understand that education is important but this is one of the worst times for COVID, and there are too many families that are suffering from this.”

Sarah Han, Staff Writer

   There’s nothing I can say about the pandemic you haven’t heard before. I never want to hear the words “unprecedented” or “new normal” ever again. At this point, we’re all sick of it. Even still, the number of cases are rising and COVID is still evolving. And whether we like it or not, we have a responsibility to act sensibly and do whatever it takes to keep others safe. But there is only so much students can do. We have no control over the fact that we have to attend school every day, filled with thousands of other kids, not knowing who might be infected. If student health is the cost of continuing to conduct school in-person, is it worth it?

   West High has created rules in an attempt to keep its students as safe as possible. For example, students are suggested to stay six feet apart from each other, wear their masks at all times, and stay home from school if they feel sick. No student may eat inside the classroom, windows and doors must stay open, and there should not be more than 30 kids in a class. Many of these rules, though, are either impractical, unattainable, or knowingly broken. It’s impossible for every student to eat lunch six feet away from anyone else. Many classrooms are filled to maximum capacity (over 30 students), and very little is done to enforce these safety measures. Elliot Kim (12) believes that even contact tracing has become “irrelevant and inefficient due to the amount of people that have caught COVID.” If a friend tested positive, we may know about it, but we would never know if it was the friend of the seat partner that we do activities with every day. That seat partner may be unknowingly infected, affecting everyone else around them. People around us test positive or come in contact with others that catch COVID every day, but infection is so widespread that it is impossible to keep track of every case. In fact, in the daily COVID reports sent out through email each day after Winter Break, there was never one instance where the number of new COVID cases in the school reached zero. Kim argued that schools should go back online, “not only for our health, but for the health of others” since COVID will “eventually spread to people who are immune compromised or who have underlying illnesses.” Schools have a responsibility to close down to lower the number of cases. 

   At the very least, West should better accommodate students at home. Dominic Disloquez (11), who had to quarantine, stated that he “had a ton of catch-up work when [he] got back.” While some teachers open Zoom calls or record lectures, not every class makes online resources available. Students who are sick or quarantined may have a more difficult time when they come back to school. This makes the suggestion to “stay home if you feel sick” much harder to follow since there are few resources available for students at home.

   As time passes, the number of people quarantining and the number of absent students in our classes falls. Vice Principal Mr. Spotts stated that by the beginning of February, the number of absences each day had returned to normal, although there were almost three times as many absences during the first few weeks of January. He also said that if COVID cases were to suddenly rise again, the school would likely not go online because it has learned to handle these situations. 

   Still, the considerable number of absences at the beginning of January could have been avoided if the school had closed down for a period of time. On January 3, the first day back from Winter Break, 325 students were absent (as opposed to the typical 100 per day). On the Friday of that week, 452 students were absent. If West has an estimated 2,000 students, 452 absences constitutes 22 percent of the whole student body. The increase in absences from that Monday to Friday likely means that an increasing number of students became infected throughout the week; students who tested positive responsibly stayed home.

   If West truly had the best interest of students and faculty in mind, the school should have gone online for the first few weeks back from break. Not doing so endangered the health of students and staff, especially when there is an easy solution to this issue. How many more people need to test positive for schools to finally make the sensible choice? Do West students need to walk out of class ― just as Redondo Union students did ― for the administration to listen to student voices? The measures that West has taken are clearly not enough. West needs to prioritize the health of its students above all, even if that means making hard choices to keep students safe.

 

*The opinions expressed in our Opinion articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily express the views of the Signals Staff or West High as a whole.