We should continue with online learning

The United States set a single-day record of new coronavirus cases reported on June 24 with 38,115. 

The next day, that record was broken, with a national total of 39,327 new cases. The day after that, the record was broken yet again – this time surpassing 40,000 cases with a total of 44,702 cases reported, according to The Washington Post

The trend continued on June 27 with another record being set at 44,782. And that’s not the worst news. The CDC predicts that the total number of positive COVID-19 cases is likely to be 10 times higher than what is currently being reported.

Back on June 23 when the U.S. began this disturbing trend, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District  live-streamed their board meeting that outlined the presumptive three options for the 2020-2021 school year: a return to traditional, full time in-school learning, a hybrid model that combines in-school and remote learning plans, and a full remote learning plan.

The district should go with the full remote learning plan if it truly wants to to prioritize student and staff safety and set an example to the community about the seriousness of the situation, 

If students are to be allowed back in any capacity this fall, they will be placed at desks in rows each four feet apart and wearing masks to abide by current state mandate. But that’s not nearly enough to keep the virus from spreading.

Let’s walk through a day in what would be my life in an in-school setting to get the full picture. I start by parking my car and heading to my A period class, wearing my mask. In the classroom I’m at separated desks, but what happens when the bell rings? Is there going to be a 20 minute passing period where each person leaves the room in 5 or 10 second intervals so we are sure to stay distanced, and again when entering our next class?

But let’s not skip past the walk between classes. I know I haven’t been at school in a while, but the hallways in the main building didn’t seem wider than 12 feet to me. They also didn’t seem very empty. How am I supposed to keep myself distanced when walking from class to class when there are hundreds of other students trying to do the same?

But let’s say, by some miracle, that I manage to stay away from everyone when walking through the hallway. My A period class this past year was on the third floor. My first period class was in the science building. We know that walking through the hallways is crowded, but that’s nothing compared to the seemingly thousands of students trying to use the staircases. There’s no way I’m keeping a four-to-six foot radius around me for that whole trek. 

After first period is brunch. You’re telling me there’s enough space for me to find my friends and join every other group of people on campus in making an awkwardly large circle with six feet between us all just to be able to talk? 

Then comes third period. The hallway and stairs problem still exists, but we’ll ignore that for now. Once that class is over, it’s time for lunch. Who is going to make the decision of what two or three friends get to sit at the lunch table? Any more than that and we’d be too close to each other. Cal already has a massive seating problem at lunch. Where is everyone supposed to sit now? And don’t think you can go to good ol’ Mr. nice-history-teacher-who-lets-you-sit-in-his-room-for-lunch, because this is when classrooms need to be sanitized. 

I think you get the picture. And some of you may be thinking, “What about the hybrid model, where half the students go each day?” Unfortunately, while slightly better, that doesn’t work either. Yes there would be fewer students, but there are almost 3,000 enrolled at Cal High, and half of that is still too many to ensure proper distancing and practices. 

There are many other problems that apply to both full time in-person and hybrid learning. Who’s to make sure that students even keep their masks on the entire day? Many people don’t wear them now, and others don’t wear them correctly. If a student decides not to wear a mask, what are the teachers going to do? Threaten to get within six feet of the kid?

And then there’s the not-so-small problem that people carry the coronavirus with no symptoms. No coughing, fever, weakness, nothing. Some of these people still end up with the potentially life threatening lung damage that people with symptoms get. Even if you argue that students have less of a chance of getting seriously ill, please don’t forget about the educators and staff students can unknowingly give it to. 

By far the biggest problem with going back to school is that almost nothing has changed since March 13 when we were last on campus. There is no cure for COVID-19. There is no vaccine for COVID -19. There is still more unknown about the virus than known. If it wasn’t safe to go to school on March 16, it’s not safe to go on Aug. 11.

During the board meeting on June 23, Christine Huajardo, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, said, “We want our students to return in any capacity, but we want them to return in a healthy and safe manner.”

If the district’s first priority is safety like they say time and time again, then if just one student is at risk, no one should be on campus. And the argument “if you want to stay home, stay home” is invalid for this same reason. 

Obviously I would love to go back. I’m going to be a senior, and I want to see my friends. This was supposed to be one of the greatest years of my life, and I’m sick and tired of being inside and wearing a mask when I’m outside. Remote learning is not an ideal situation, and I hate learning from a computer. But guess what? That’s what you do when there is a literal global pandemic. Your social life and preferences need to be put on the backburner. 

At the end of the day, as appealing as going back to normal – or even a partial normal – seems, it’s just not realistic or safe for anyone. And as much as it sucks to say that, it’s true.

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