Student return to in-person learning comes with new safety procedures

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Kaily Barlows

Natalie Young, Genesis Fair,and Darius Sims, working on book work in Ms. Schroll’s English ll class.

Korissa Smith, Staff Reporter

No student at GCAA could have known the effect the Corona-virus pandemic would have on them, their mental health and motivation is on the decline, and the need to get them back into school safely is urgent, but the question is…How?
Since March 13, 2020, students had not seen the sights of Grand Center Arts Academy and given the state of the country, when the new school year came up, virtual learning was the only acceptably safe option.
But a transition was made on January 19, 2021, when GCAA decided once again to open its doors to its students.
Virtual learning had been extremely hard on everyone, but many were concerned whether going back to school in-person for the second semester was the best option for student and staff safety.
In results from a survey sent out mid-fall semester, 120 students were set to return to GCAA, however, in the first three weeks of hybrid in-person and virtual learning, those numbers had fluctuated to about 80 to 90 students a day.
Teachers and students, virtual and in-person, had different ideas on how this experience would work and nearly a month into the semester there were multiple perspectives on if this year could continue with in-person students.
Nonetheless, the school had prepared with an abundant amount of new COVID-19 safety policies,
“[Students and teachers must] wear a mask at all times, unless [they’re] in the lunchroom, in which students are supposed to be socially-distanced away from each other, so they can eat their meal,” said biology teacher Katherine Switzer. “Eating takes place in just one of the cafeterias. After each [sitting], the desks that were touched are required to be wiped down…”
With the various precautions in place, the transition was not to be taken lightly, however, the move still made many nervous and excited about their newfound situation,
“I’ve been here for a couple of years and I’ve always really liked it,” said freshman Magdalena Stock, “But it’s a little different, you know, with the Google Meets and the social distancing but, I still think it works. We’re doing good.”
This confidence was felt in teachers as well, though, most did wish there was more to do to about security. Switzer believes that there are many other methods that could be used to help build this, such as, using both cafeterias for space, giving stickers to those who have been scanned for temperatures, and more,
“I feel pretty safe,” said Switzer. “There are things I wish we did have that would make it a little bit easier. I don’t want to feel as disconnected from my students in my room. However, I think of one of those big plexiglass screens in front of my desk. Just to kind of space out a little bit more.”
It is of great importance for the people of GCAA to feel a sense of safety, so it should also be taken into account the fact that there were a large majority of students who chose virtual learning instead of in-person learning for various reasons.
One student, junior Miriam Stern believed that the reason to stay home was simple, because she could not trust the students in-person to do their part in following the policies.
“When I went to the school to pick up books, the staff and students weren’t properly socially distanced and half of them had their mask under their nose,” said Stern.
Indeed, the need to feel an assured sense of safety was going to be a difficult one to satisfy, but the administration and staff had assured that they would do their best to match these needs.
High school principal, Dr. Shane Hopper stated that everyone would be determined to go back to life without the masks and the pandemic, and so the school would take their part in making that happen,
“No one likes to wear a mask or socially distance but if that is what we need to do to have a semblance of school, we do it,” said Hopper. “The grind of living in a pandemic for a whole year is taxing on everyone. I can say that many are quite fragile, tired, and ready for a return to normalcy.”
Reflecting on this year had been daunting on everyone and staff and students were ready to go back to school, so that they could continue fulfilling their duties in the best way possible.
“I feel like my purpose in life is to be in this room or a room in general, so that I can teach you guys, not just life things but life skills,” said Switzer. “And it’s not the same on the computer.”