An EMT administers a COVID test at the free testing site in Winthrop. Testing is available Monday through Saturday from 2-7 PM every week. (Photo Courtesy of The Boston Herald)
An EMT administers a COVID test at the free testing site in Winthrop. Testing is available Monday through Saturday from 2-7 PM every week.

Photo Courtesy of The Boston Herald

Is it safe to go back to school? Students share opinions amid rise in cases

Facts and Student Opinions About Going Back to School in Person

October 26, 2020

Fall is here, usually a time of sniffling and sick days, but this year is different. The students are at home, protecting themselves from COVID-19, having to spend their school days learning through a blaring screen. Is this the right thing for the students? Should we be learning in school rather than online? I went to a few students for their opinions. 

First, what is the coronavirus situation in Winthrop? In Suffolk County there have been a total of 26,383 cases, and 1,156 deaths. According to the Winthrop Public Health Update for October 16, 2020 Winthrop has had a total of 425 cases, 24 people have died, and twelve people are currently in isolation. But, just this weekend, October 24, there have been 22 cases due to social events according to Public Health Alert: Town of Winthrop Confirms Two Case Clusters, Urges Residents to Get Tested. And that is just an estimate, there are many people who get it and either don’t know, don’t report it, or don’t get officially tested, meaning that number could be much higher. 

According to Reopening Massachusetts, as of October 5, Massachusetts has begun phase III, step 2 of reopening for lower-risk communities, these are communities that are not deemed as in the red zone in the last three weeks. But, Winthrop is not one of these communities; our town has not been able to stay out of the red. There are requirements/mandates that have been put in place in Massachusetts in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has regulations for many categories, including the safer-at-home advisory, gatherings, and k-12 schools. The safer-at-home advisory states, “all residents are REQUIRED to cover their face when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public,” and for people to, “use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family who are high risk for COVID-19.” The gathering’s guidance includes many informational facts and videos in order to stay safe and follow mandates. This category includes information on prevention, social distancing, wearing masks, treatment, and more. In the social distancing section, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts clearly states, “people can spread COVID19 up to 48 hours before they have symptoms. That’s why social distancing is so important— no matter what.” Social distancing includes call, Facetime, and online chat with friends and family, or if you must go out don’t gather in groups, stay 6 feet away from others at least (even when wearing a mask), and don’t shake hands or hug. 

Now, I turn to the students, given all the information about staying safe, what are their opinions about going back to school in person? 

I turned to Jenna and Maura Dorr, the President and Vice President of the senior class. First, I asked them their opinions about online learning, 

Jenna said, “Online school is not effective, especially seniors who need contact with their teachers to apply to college, the teachers have been doing a great job so far and have been working really hard for us but it does not match the education we would be receiving in person, like many districts around us are getting.” 

Next, I asked if they think it is safe to go back to school in person, 

Maura responded, “Yes, although we are in the red zone, if the correct safety precautions are followed, it is definitely safe to go back. Many students will opt out also, which means less students will actually be in the building.” It is not yet known how students will be learning if they choose to stay home. 

I also asked that if we do go back in person, how will we stay safe to follow Massachusetts’ mandates? 

“With the hybrid model, only half of the class should be in the classroom, which allows for desks to be socially distanced. Masks will be worn at all times. Our new buildings with great ventilation will be cleaned with the cleaned machines the town has purchased,”Maura replied.

“If class sizes are limited, and students and faculty are following guidelines, I don’t see an issue for those who choose to go back” added Jenna. 

I asked other students through text and our instagram page their opinions as well. We added a poll on our instagram page asking, “Do you think it is safe to return to school?” and 43 students replied. 39.5% of repliers said yes, they do think it is safe to return in person, while 60.5% of repliers chose no. Students also privately messaged us to state their opinion about going back to school in person. 

A senior who wishes to stay anonymous said, “It’s better if we prioritize lowering our cases to make the possible learning environment safer and not risk having a spike come because people were too eager to go back to school. What we have now is fine, and I don’t think it’ll be forever, but we must take our responsibility and work toward our goal of seeing each other again.” 

Jack Flaherty also added his opinion, stating, “opening schools would make everyone think that covid is over and it clearly isn’t over, if we open up schools it will put so much of this community at danger and that’s not a risk we should be willing to take. Now on the other hand I think there should be an option for children with mental disabilities to go back to school if it would help them focus, but everyone else should just make the best out of online learning.”

Senior, Bella Sernavsky’s opinion about online learning is, “that it may help some people depending in how they learn better, but I know for me it is one of the worst things for trying to learn things.”

She also added that, “if we follow the rules given by the state, then we should be able to handle any kind of class.”

Junior Julia Marcoccio’s opinion about how we will stay safe if we go back to school is, “If we do go back to school, there will definitely need to be major precautions taken to adhere to the pandemic. Such precautions could be to have desks spread out six feet away from each other and to be sanitized after every class by the students. Students should be required to wear masks as well. If there were classes with larger numbers than the hybrid model would be more realistic but eventually if we do go back to school fully, this would definitely be an issue.”

Giulia Bordonaro commented on her opinion, “I want to at least get back into school in January!” 

Students’ opinions seem to be wide spread on if it is safe to be in school full time, but it seems that everyone wants to go back to school once it is safe. In order to go back safely, let’s wear our masks, social distance, and respect our peers to get Winthrop out of the red zone so we can safely go back to school in person!

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    Heidi BakerNov 5, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Interesting survey results!

  • Natalia KirilovaOct 29, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Very insightful!