BRICK AND MORTAR
How well are schools implementing social-distancing measures?
December 1, 2020
A picture of students huddled together in the hallways on the first day back on campus at Boca Raton High School quickly went viral on Snapchat and raised concerns as to how social distancing was being implemented in schools. The first day of returning back to brick and mortar was full of anticipation and anxiety. After all, a pandemic is not something to be taken lightly. A photo like that showing the first-hand experience of what going back to school hides nothing. This poses one big critical question: how well are social-distancing measures actually being enforced?
Families of the Palm Beach County School District were given the option to either return to school or stay home on Aug. 31. Students were required to submit their decisions through the “Make Your Choice” tile. Data Processor Kimberly Griffiths reported that as of Sept. 21, there were 315 students on campus with 1280 learning from home. Those numbers declined with only 257 students attending campus as of Oct. 7. As of that same date, Suncoast had three confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of them being students. So how well are social distancing measures at schools working?
“I chose to not go back to school because of what I’ve seen happening at other schools,” sophomore Jude Kuffour said. “More specifically, the lack of social distancing was what deterred me and I decided it was much safer to stay home instead of risking an infection. Getting Corona is a major L.”
The measures at Suncoast are in coordination with the official statements and guidelines released by the school board in accordance with School Board Policy 5.326 Student Protocols due to Covid-19. At Suncoast, staff members have been very responsible at making sure everyone is following the rules. Students are monitored very closely to ensure that traffic, conversation and physical contact are minimized as much as possible. There is no stopping in the hallways, hugging or handshakes allowed, and students who engage in these activities are constantly reminded that they cannot.
“I feel really safe at school, everything is sanitized and people are good at keeping their mask on,” sophomore Robert Morrison said. “I needed to go back because I couldn’t focus online.”
Moreover, at Suncoast, desks are spaced out with students having to be seated at every other desk. The halls are mapped out with arrows with one-way traffic on either side. Desks are sanitized before and after each class with disinfecting wipes. Students and teachers cannot take off their masks during class. As for lunchtime procedures, there is a one person per bench requirement both inside and outside. The lunch lines are mapped out with X markings on the group while waiting in line. There are monitors supervising the students to ensure everyone is being compliant. In fact, some students think that there should actually be more freedom.
“Lunch is extremely restrictive,” Morrison said. “I think that there should be some leeway given. For example, if I am hanging out with the same group of friends everyday and I can’t sit at the table I feel that is a little bit overdoing it as we would all be screwed if one of us got it.”
There is a common phrase many people use: “better safe than sorry”. In this case, rather, being safe is better than causing a widespread Coronavirus outbreak across the entire school by not following guidelines. By maintaining strict and consistent social distancing measures, schools will have the best possible outcome at combating the pandemic and allowing students to return to campus. Going back to school is very important for many students and being strict allows that to continue to happen.
“I wanted to go back because I missed the social aspect of school and I want it to go back to normal again,” sophomore Sabrina Heim said. “I think more people should go back because guidelines are not preventing us from seeing each other and talking to friends.”
The incident that occurred at Boca Raton High School is a stark contrast to the reality at Suncoast right now. All in all, the social-distancing measures coupled with the low amount of students currently attending are working in unison to keep students safe. The biggest priority seems to be safety and getting students the learning experience they benefit the most from. I would say that Suncoast is very successful at enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures. The lack of flexibility in the rules ensures a constant that students and staff alike can rely on, health and safety.