By Ellie Kinsella, entertainment editor
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been a prevalent element of society for the last two years, and will inevitably be a big piece of history within upcoming years. The way places and people are governed have been important pieces to the puzzle that make up what we now know as the COVID pandemic. Mandates, restrictions, and vaccination requirements have continued to range from a full mask mandate, shutting down the entire country, and a nationwide vaccination mandate like New Zealand; to no mask mandate, little to no restrictions, and no vaccine mandate like Florida. Massachusetts is at a somewhat happy medium of the two; we have a mask mandate, we have a vaccine mandate, and our COVID restrictions are steadily starting to lift as our state officials try to acclimate us to our new “normal.”
I could be here forever talking about America as a whole and its COVID restrictions, so I’ve decided to hone in on Massachusetts and Nantucket. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has announced that remote learning no longer counts towards the necessary 180 days of education that public schools must provide students with. Governor Baker agrees with the DESE’s decision, and specifically stated himself in early January that the 180 days must be in-person, as in-person learning is the only form of schooling that is considered “proper learning.”
As of right now, early March of 2022, Nantucket’s daily testing positive rate is 1 per week. This fluctuates immensely from week to week, but the daily testing positive average is back to what it was in late November of 2021, after a major increase and spike in cases over the holiday season. This may not seem like a lot, however, if we hone in our view further to just the Nantucket Public School district, the numbers appear to be more drastic.
Nantucket High School nurse Kelsey Perkins was kind enough to provide as accurate as possible COVID-19 numbers to me, and they go as follows: to this date, the amount of positive rapid tests for the high school have been 53, and district-wide have been 145. The amount of tests that have come back positive outside of school rapid testing—but still within the high school—is approximately 100. This number is even more shocking when you consider that about 52 of these positive tests have happened within the last month, or thereabouts.
The number of rapid tests that have been distributed throughout the high school is greater than 530, meaning that 10% of rapid tests come back positive. Breaking down that statistic even further leaves us with the idea that one in every ten kids who get tested will test positive. While this sample is biased, because students who choose to get tested are most likely to be positive, this is a high positive rate. With classes that range from 20-30 kids, two to three could come back positive if all students are tested, but not before possibly infecting their peers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that if you test positive, then you must isolate for 5 days, or until your symptoms go away. It is also suggested that if any of your family members or anyone that you are close to test positive, you should isolate for 5 days as well, as a precaution. This leaves students out of school for days, which may not seem like a big issue to adults, however, course work, load, and material differ from class to class, and student to student. Students in classes that have smaller workloads may not have an issue with being taken out of school for a couple days compared to their peers in classes with high workloads. If a student is already struggling, missing vital instruction could vastly increase their stress.
And, without instruction, students may also be lost when they return to school. This is especially prevalent in math and science classes, where instruction is one of the most important pieces of learning. As an all Honors and AP student who was taken out of school because of an inconclusive PCR test and three positive family members, I can attest to the fact that the sheer amount of work that piled up over the fews days I was gone was beyond my comprehension.
With students constantly flowing in and out of the classroom and missing school for days on end, it’s also hard for teachers to keep track of who is gone and when they happened to be gone. Teachers also have to accommodate for students who were taken out of school, and more often than not, have to stay late to work with students to get them caught up. The issue of student stress and teacher stress is prevalent in today’s schooling society, which is why I am here to present a solution: reinstating the hybrid learning model.
It does not go unnoticed that some students and teachers struggle with online school and greatly prefer in-person, which is why a fully online option isn’t ideal. The hybrid model would give absent students—absent specifically with COVID, and well enough to join online classes—the chance to level the playing field with their peers. They’d be given instruction, and teachers wouldn’t have to stay hours on end after school to get previously absent students caught up. Although online school is a bit of a hassle in general—especially with students on the computer and within the classroom—it provides less of a hassle than extending deadlines, moving work online for absent students, and countless extra hours of make-up lessons to complete.
Even if the DESE does not choose to reinstate the hybrid model, it still may be a good idea for Nantucket High to do so. Furthermore, even if students cannot get credit for attending lessons and would still be marked absent, being able to listen to a lesson and gain information–if they are physically and mentally capable of doing so–is better than nothing. In order to make sure school is as stress-free an environment as possible, it is important that equal opportunities are given to all students, especially those who are falling behind because of uncontrollable medical complications.