By Reese Burns, assistant editor
Coronavirus is still here and very prominent all around the world. The world is still in a pandemic despite many states having lifted the stay-at-home restrictions. It seems as though the urgency of social distancing and the media display of the virus has lessened and people are becoming more comfortable with straying from the recommended safety precautions. The United States has recently surpassed 100,000 deaths in addition to the 3.3 million Americans who have filed for unemployment due to COVID-19. As the virus has made it very clear, it is not going away any time soon.
The world has been warned that while numerous potential vaccines are in hopeful development, it is anticipated that one won’t be available to the public until sometime in 2021. With this in mind, questions emerge regarding this upcoming fall. Will school be online? Will there be another spike? Will everything be back to normal? The only definite answer to these questions is no, everything will not be back to normal. That does not necessarily mean we will go into quarantine again, but it also does not mean that life will be the way it was before the coronavirus struck.
Leslie Brannigan, teacher at NHS and community member, spoke with her husband, Dr. Chris Brannigan on the matter and they both agreed that although he works in the hospital, Dr. Brannigan, among other health care professionals, do not have any extra information on the virus than has been shared with the public. Mrs. Brannigan stated, “I think that there will be some sort of in-house component where we will be within school walls at least to some extent. Maybe they’ll get creative with start times or certain grade levels or days of the week but to imagine the fall being more of what it’s like right now doesn’t reflect the hope and the sense of community that I think is so indicative of what Nantucket and the Nantucket education in the community is all about.”
In terms of what schools could look like in the fall, it is truly unknown. Many colleges and universities including Duke University and Boston College are preparing for an “in-person” semester. In knowing this, it seems reasonable that Nantucket Public Schools could possibly open their doors to students and faculty. Patrick Gregorich, chemistry teacher at NHS believes there will not be a traditional opening to the 2020-2021 school year. He said, “I’m hoping we will have at least some in-person classes; it really helps build the relationships that aid student learning. There are a variety of different ways to accomplish this and I won’t speculate on what option is implemented. Currently, I am preparing for a large portion of remote learning. I think we will all know more at the end of the month when we expect some guidance from the commissioner of education.” However, numerous schools are planning on remaining online or are still waiting to decide. Therefore, it could go either way.
Some proposed safety measures for colleges returning to in-person study include holding a separate dorm for students to quarantine, as well as altering school breaks in order to limit any possible exposure to the virus. In addition, students will most likely be required to wear masks at all times when on campus, and larger schools are considering spacing out students/faculty throughout many classrooms while decreasing class-size drastically.
While the world mourns the loss of the end of senior year for the Class of 2020, speculations circulate around the fate of the Class of 2021. It is possible that the Class of 2021 may not even have a senior year. This leaves more students missing out on their final year of high school, undergraduate, or graduate year of college. When asked what she thinks of next school year, current Junior Amanda Mack shared, “As an upcoming senior, I am extremely hopeful that we will be back in the building. If we do go back, I think things will look very different, for example, I don’t think we will be allowed in the building all at once. If we don’t get to go back right away, I do think that we will at some point!” In continuation of Amanda’s point, if students are unable to return to school in fall, it is possible that many annual activities such as Homecoming, the Class of 2021’s Prom, and more will be moved later in the year to accommodate somewhat of a resemblance to the beloved traditions.
One main concern for many student-athletes is how upcoming sports seasons are going to play out. Although nothing is certain, rumors have erupted claiming that fall sports are not looking good. While this would be extremely disappointing for all athletes, it is the responsibility of all schools and their athletic directors to make decisions that place students’ health and safety as the main priority. As for students who are planning on pursuing their sport beyond high school, recruitment for college teams will obviously be different, considering senior year is crucial to scouts. Depending on the decision made by each jurisdiction, recruitment could potentially revolve around a recording of the player completing drills and other aspects of the sport as directed by the recruiting officer.
As of now, everything remains up in the air. Everything will be uncertain for a while and things will never be how they used to. Although a vaccine may come out in 2021, not everyone will have access to it. Due to both the abilities of mass-production and people without healthcare, the continued spreading and possibility of another outbreak of the coronavirus is plausible.
Dr. Buckey: “Superintendents have regular meetings with the Commissioner. Last week I attended a meeting on Friday. He provided us with several scenarios for re-opening, but asked that we not share them at this time as it is all very preliminary information. I can say the options range from continued remote learning to what we were in March before the pandemic. They are that broad. The Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents was quoted as having said something like “determining a plan for the fall is like playing badminton in a windstorm.” Every plan has a contingency plan and a phased approach. Each question that is asked generates a new list of concerns or variables. We are all focused on options for summer programming, which two weeks ago, seemed would not be a possibility. We need to provide services to our students with special needs as well as English Learner supports. Most students will experience some regression in their learning. We need to engage discussions for how best to address that as students move to the next grade level or course.”