Opinion: Students should return to full in-person school

Keithan Sharp, Editor-in-chief

We, as high school students in America, have been forgotten. The global COVID-19 outbreak brought the entire world to a halt, and high school students were disproportionately affected. School systems throughout the nation bickered about how best to educate, while also integrating new safety measures. The irony is that these safety measures are the sole cause behind a spike in anxiety, depression and mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four young adults have considered suicide due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

School districts, especially Blue Valley, had the opportunity to be trailblazers and demonstrate how much they care for their students’ well-being. Instead, their response worsened the mental health crisis. Students have not interacted with people their own age in months, and teenagers are growing accustomed to isolating in their rooms, completely locked out of their circle of support and friendship. I am not naive enough to believe every student has adhered to the social distancing and mask requirements, but even if students are seeing their friends, they are losing the opportunity to talk to people they aren’t the closest to and missing those random conversations in the hallway, the teacher-student connections that drive education, and the feeling of purpose, all of which have been lost by holding school online.

Adding to the hypocrisy in the administration’s response, athletics are allowed to continue, with no data supporting the decision. Parents pressured the school board into reversing their decision, but no focus was given to the real purpose of school: to educate and inspire students. Football players can square off and tackle each other every week, but those same players cannot go to class the next day. There is no science in this decision; it is merely convenience.

The recent decision to move to a hybrid learning model, with the student body rotating between learning in-person and online, is a step in the right direction, but it is too little too late. Motivation has already been lost, and eliminating almost an entire quarter of in-person learning will have detrimental ramifications for students of all ages. A study conducted by the CDC found a “strong association between length of quarantine and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, avoidance behavior, and anger.” Staring into a screen full of 20 pixelated boxes, forced to be on mute the entire time and being released to do hours of homework without instruction is not the education we deserve. 

The spread of Coronavirus will not be stopped by any precautionary measure, but that is not a reason to keep students isolated. Government data suggests that the COVID-19 death rate is minuscule in the population of school-aged children (only about 100 nation-wide), and Influenza consistently infects and kills more children. Science does not yet know why the infection rate is so different in children than adults, but the data proves the correlation. We should not fear and eliminate opportunities because of an astonishingly low child infection rate.

Think about all the memories that will never be made, the friendships that will never be formed and the lessons that will never be taught. We have been deprived of too much already. Consistency should be a requirement. If football can play, we should have dances. If private schools can learn in-person, so should public schools. Clearly, the district administration took the easy way out, and in doing so they failed each and every student who deserves the right to an education.