Your Guide to In-Person School During a Pandemic
As we all know by now, 2020 has been a really stressful, unpredictable year. With all of the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic, even things we’ve become accustomed to such as church, school, and even a trip to the grocery store have changed drastically to keep us safe and slow the spread.
Here in Keller, Texas, our school year was able to start more or less on time - and in person. I’ve been in school for almost three weeks as of writing this and have a pretty good grasp on the safety procedures and why certain procedures are in place. Seeing as most of y’all around the country have yet to start in person, I’m here to tell you guys what you can generally expect when you go back if your school is anything like mine. Without further ado, here is your guide to the in-person COVID school year!
First, and I’m sure the one you were all expecting, you gotta wear a mask. Now this one’s pretty obvious; wearing masks in a public setting is recommended by the CDC and mandated by 31 states as of August 24th, and that’s not to mention that many separate cities and counties have their own mask policies. You can also see the studies for yourself from the CDC and WHO which both show a significant correlation between wearing your mask and lowered transmission rates. My school requires masks when you’re riding the bus, sitting in class, walking the halls, and talking to anyone. You can take off your mask while eating lunch and also while using the bathroom. All water fountains are closed, and the janitorial staff has been expanded to clean high-contact areas of the school as often as possible. A big change for my school happened in the lunchroom, where the typical big lunch tables that fit 8 to 10 kids have been replaced with many socially distant desks. This is because the Texas mandate states that students should only take off their masks if six feet away from other people. Obviously you can’t eat with your mask on, thus small spaced out tables. You can probably expect a similar measure of some sort in your district.
Next, let's talk about what it’s like in class and walking around the school. For my school, this is where it gets kind of rocky, but it’s a more district-specific issue. My district changed their entire grading/scheduling system, which resulted in extra stress on the teachers and also royally screwed just about everyone's schedules. I doubt most of your schools are doing something like that, however, be patient and expect some kind of growing pains when coming back to school for the first time in 8 months. Remember that your teachers are having to deal with adversity just as much as you, so be courteous.
My school is also holding hybrid classes in which there are kids in the classroom and on Zoom call at the same time. One of my AP classes is like that and it can be chaotic, but it’s improved every week, so just think of it as more growing pains.
Another big one for every class is that teachers are supposed to be as paperless as possible to avoid the transfer of germs. Your laptop will be your best friend this year as you live on Google Classroom, Canvas, Khan Academy, etc. I’m somewhat tech-savvy so it's been alright for me other than math (math is just so much more understandable when you work it out on paper).
At my school, and from what I understand of many schools that have reopened, there are specific routes you have to follow when walking around the campus. This might sound complicated, but it’s actually not bad. For my school, it’s mostly just adhering to the natural flow of traffic to avoid running into people. For example, you're just supposed to stick to the right at all times and avoid walking shoulder to shoulder. The only real annoying thing about the routes is that our main staircase is now one way (you can only go down it) so you have to go out of your way to get to class, but once again it’s not much of an issue.
These guidelines and changes are most of what you can expect from your school in 2020. I’d also like to note that at my school the consequences for breaking these policies on multiple occasions can be severe, with suspension or even expulsion on the table. So be smart; wear your mask, wash your hands, and follow whatever guidelines your district puts in place. The safety of you and your peers is of the utmost concern, and should especially be taken very seriously during COVID times. God bless y’all, and wishing everyone good luck for their 2020 school year!
If you or someone you love needs help during this tough time, check out our Resources page for links to mental health resources. If you or someone you love might have COVID-19, click here for the CDC's instructions. We encourage you to do everything you can to keep yourself and others safe!