Opinion | As COVID-19 persists, school protocols must be maintained

On Aug. 27, 2021 a number of students were greeted by an email titled “COVID Notification.” This email stated that “A person in your child’s classroom at Evanston Township High School has tested positive for COVID 19.” The email then gives information regarding what actions and steps would help someone who is feeling ill or worried. 

When the news was dropped on my unsuspecting English class that someone in our grade level had contracted COVID-19, the room was filled with gasps and side remarks. An array of “I knew it” and “I saw this coming” echoed throughout. Yet, I still found myself wondering how this could have happened. 

Since the first day of school, ETHS has regularly followed the CDC guidelines imposed on all schools. Mandatory masks, six feet distance and hand sanitizers stationed all over the school.

However, as of Oct. 9, there have been a total of 15 confirmed COVID-19 student cases and 11confirmed COVID-19 staff cases at ETHS. 

“For nine weeks, we’ve been in school. I’d say yeah, [the school’s ability to prevent COVID-19 spread is] pretty good. My guess is that it’s averaging one case, two cases a week, especially considering how many students and teachers go here,” Forensics and Physics teacher Adam Held states. 

It should be noted that ETHS has over 4,000 students. For a student body that large, as the school year goes on, it will become more challenging to ensure all the guidelines are being followed. 

I see a lot of people not wearing their mask or not wearing it correctly. Also, I’m seeing people go to concerts and then come to school the next day, and I don’t love that idea,” junior Olivia Broughton explains.

Being in quarantine and forced to face teachers through a screen imposed a narrative of seclusion on many students. Now that we are in person, many people increasingly act as if COVID-19 no longer exists. Society has reached its debatably acceptable point of “normal,” and it’s causing a mix of responses. For some, the seclusion and fear they faced while isolated in their homes are now gone. However, others are facing their fears towards COVID-19 at an all-time high because of this carelessness.  

Walking through H-Hall, you see kids shoved up against each other as they try to get to class and their masks below their noses or chins. The lines at lunch are no different; in fact, when I do want to eat inside, I find myself hoping that COVID-19 would be polite enough to wait until I’m done eating to infect me. 

“The new lunch schedule sucks. If you want to eat outside, it’s always crowded. And if you want to eat inside, you have to go to your designated lunchroom and deal with the gamble of whether or not your friends have the same cafeteria as you,” junior Fernanda Villasenor states. 

However, ETHS has done its best in accommodating its student body when it comes to extracurriculars. Some instances of this include providing bell covers for instruments and supplying students with playing masks during their band classes. 

“Playing with the restrictions is not very difficult at all, although sometimes getting your mouthpiece or reed inside of the playing mask is a little time-consuming,” sophomore Xander Senechal explains. “I think the band department did a really good job with COVID-19. They kept all the bands alive during COVID-19, allowing people to play on video and mixing all of our sounds so we still sounded like a band and could ‘perform’ with a video that people could watch.” 

Another instance of this care is the way ETHS is managing sports. Allowing students, coaches and staff to conduct their own screening, enforcing the six-feet distance rule when not engaged with athletic activities and imposing a rule that shared equipment must be sanitized after each use has gone a long way in preventing spread.

“So far, I have been able to keep up easily with the COVID-19 guidelines. I follow them by doing things like keeping my mask on whenever needed and making sure I keep enough distance between people inside. While playing, the guidelines are much easier. We aren’t required to wear masks but still need to keep our distance, which is fairly nice. I believe ETHS has done a good job last season with barely any COVID-19 cases,” junior ETHS running back Skyler Lee states. “I heard of many school teams that kept getting shut down one after another last year, so I believe ETHS did a great job. The thing I like personally is how ETHS made us do temperature check-ins.” 

We have seen the ETHS guidelines being effective in our art spaces and sports. So, why don’t we see this in our classrooms? I don’t expect a school full of over 4,000 kids to follow every ETHS COVID regulation. I just think we could go about this differently. Enforcing masks and reminding students to follow ETHS guidelines helps us ensure that we continue to keep our COVID numbers low and keep our community safe. There’s no concrete way to make sure ETHS avoids any COVID-19 spread, but there are important steps we must continue to take to maintain what we’re doing and follow all the steps ETHS has put in place for the safety of our students and staff. 

In the classrooms, we are granted a forgotten perspective during COVID-19. Last school year, teachers faced burnout and high levels of stress. The concerns of teacher shortages and how to properly engage with students were at an all-time high. This year, teachers are dealing with the responsibility of enforcing the ETHS guidelines, catching students up on what they missed last year, and overall the whole debate on COVID-19 safety. 

“I think it’s something kids have to keep in mind. A lot of teachers, when they go home, have home situations that are higher risk. My home situation is very high risk. My wife has an autoimmune disease. My daughter is six and unvaccinated. So if I bring COVID home, it would be very bad,” Held explains. 

As the pandemic progresses on, and establishments begin loosening up COVID-19 restrictions, many people still hold fears for the future and the safety of returning back to normal. Over time, the need for normalcy causes us to forget the restrictions put in place. The desire to return for what we once knew as “normal” could inevitably hurt others. It is important to remember that COVID is far from over.