LUNDBERG: A student’s opinion on how to reopen schools safely
When I heard schools in Michigan would be closed for one month due to COVID-19, I knew it wouldn’t be “just one month.” Now it is the middle of July, four months later, and one of the biggest topics among Americans is if and when schools will open.
If elementary, middle and high schools do open, they should only open if they are able to provide enough space for students and teachers to practice social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and as long as students are able to learn without putting themselves at risk.
While looking at the data from national research labs, children are one of the groups least likely to die because of coronavirus. Regardless of this fact, children should still be cautious because if they do get COVID-19, they could pass it on to an at risk or elderly relative, to a teacher or staff member or anyone in their community.
According to the CDC, 867 children from the age of 5 to 14 have died of coronavirus. Therefore, I believe all schools should take extreme caution in reopening so the children across America stay healthy and are not at risk of spreading the novel virus.
We can all agree opening schools is a top priority, but I believe we need to only open schools in a safe manner for everyone. I think from kindergarten to 12th grade you should be required to wear a mask if you are medically able. In a memo sent by my local school district, Niles Community Schools, which I love to be a part of the Viking Community, they announced that: “Tables and desks, students and teachers will be spaced as far apart as possible.”
While that sounds nice, that means in some of my classrooms, or my younger brother’s classrooms, probably most, they will not be socially distanced at 6 feet apart. This could be detrimental to creating a hotspot in Berrien county or southwest Michigan. It sounds good when saying “as apart as possible,” but some classrooms at my former elementary school and high school for example are either very small or have fixed desks that hold two people.
As a student who attends Niles High School and formerly Eastside Connections, I believe that Niles Community Schools should only open if they believe that they can make sure students are 6 feet apart. Students want to come back, only if we can really keep the distance. In some classrooms, I just do not see this happening.
I applaud Niles Community Schools for announcing that they are working really hard to open up and have developed a good safety plan on paper. I even like that they will be providing masks for all students. I really wish Niles Community Schools would require that, from kindergarten 12th grade, all students who are medically able be required to wear a mask regardless of class situations. I know for little kids this may be difficult, but this is about spreading a deadly virus and then bringing it back into our homes.
I am also calling on NCS to make sure that 100 percent of classrooms students can stay 6 feet away from one another. I have done my best all summer to wear a mask when around others, maintain social distance, wash my hands more than I ever have, but I know many people who have disregarded calls for social distance in the name of being cool, carelessness or just plain craziness. These same people are now going to be put back in small classroom spaces and hallways with many of us who really do not want to catch and bring the virus home to our families.
All in all, I do hope that Niles Community Schools will do the right thing, as these are a necessary component to make a safe earning environment if you do want to host a physical safe location. We can’t expand the walls in a classroom to make it bigger. I’m hoping reducing the number of kids in each classroom is also part of the plan. Because “as far apart as possible” doesn’t sound the safest to me. I’m optimistic that the planners will do their best for all of us coming back to school, but if returning to school means our classrooms will still have the same exact number of kids in them as last year, this is not going to work.
I think each school should send home to parents and students what the configuration of each class room in the building will look like this fall. And let us know exactly how many kids will be in each classroom. This way we can all decide for ourselves — if being “as far apart as possible” is safe enough for our comfort level.
Stuart Lundberg, of Buchanan, is a junior at Niles High School.