Math tests: 3 Covid tests: 0

Writer Liam Shack reflects on his experiences with hybrid schools and the ways he believes LMSD can improve next time around.

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After seven months of school closures, it is clear that we will not be going back to a normal schedule any time soon. Despite over 250,000 COVID-19 deaths and counting, many parents and students still longed for a return to in-person education. The school responded by rushing to figure out a plan to safely return students to the classrooms. With brand new safety regulations in place, the school is trying very hard to prevent students from contracting COVID-19. The school has divided the student body into two cohorts, moved desks further apart, limited lunch seating to desks spaced six feet apart, and offered contactless lunches to all students. But did the school do enough to keep all LM students and faculty safe? The answer, sadly, is no. The desks in classrooms are just not far enough apart, the cafeteria filled with unmasked students is essentially a feeding ground for COVID-19, and students in hallways are in no way being forced to social distance. Most importantly, the school does not test students for coronavirus. While LM followed many COVID-19 guidelines, the lack of testing combined with natural human social behavior, causes the safety measures to fall short in seriously limiting the spread of the virus.

The first day I walked into the building, I expected to see desks in classrooms very far apart and desks in the cafeteria even farther apart. I was very surprised to see how close the desks were. Terrifyingly, they do not appear to be the recommended six feet apart — some students have even suggested that the school measures from the center of the desk rather than from the sides of the desks. When a student leans over to the side of their desk, they can get dangerously close to a student in a neighboring seat. This is especially unacceptable in the cafeteria since students are not wearing masks when eating lunch.

In addition to desks not being six feet apart, students in the hallways are close together and socializing at potentially dangerous distances. On top of this, one-way stairways are occasionally used by students going both directions, and little has been done to reduce the threat created by these students’ actions. It is natural for teens to want to congregate and be close to each other; perhaps a reminder in between classes would have been helpful.

Desk spacing and social distancing aside, the biggest issue with the return to school is the lack of testing. So far, we have seen many other schools, such as Friends Central, do COVID-19 tests regularly. They test students in each of their cohorts on returns from vacation, as well as randomly during the school year. With the amount of money in the school district’s hands, LM should be able to do regular COVID-19 testing within each cohort. Even without testing at the school, we are already seeing COVID-19 cases rise. We would know right now how many students have COVID-19 if we did testing without the worrying of wondering.

It has been tough adapting to the effects of the pandemic on our school. I miss my friends, playing water polo, and swimming. COVID-19 also makes it very difficult to form meaningful connections with teachers and new friends. Unfortunately, while the school is attempting to prevent COVID-19 cases, not enough has been done and much may be impossible. The reality of the situation is it is very hard to get high school students to follow social distancing guidelines. While the school can set strict guidelines, it is the responsibility of the student body to follow them and sometimes that may not happen. This is why regular testing is an important part of in-person education. Otherwise, we are waiting for the inevitable outbreak at our school.