OP ED: ‘Rona Persona

Behavior in the Age of COVID-19


Malaka Gharib/ NPR

How To Get People To Follow The Pandemic Rules

Ellie O’Sullivan, Editor-In-Chief, Junior

As the great Beastie Boys once said, “You gotta fight – dun dun – for your right – dun dun – to paaaartay.” However, despite how awesome that song is, the more important fight is currently between our community and COVID-19. Early this September, multiple parties involving what was speculated to be over 100 PMHS students were held only a few days before the school was to open its doors after almost six months of being away. These parties were held in what is known as “The Woods,” an unkempt wooded area spanning the gap between Pelham and the Bronx. This area is often chosen for such get-togethers given that its area of jurisdiction falls under the Bronx Police department as opposed to Pelham’s. Given the magnitude of students documented not following social distancing guidelines, Dr. Champ made the decision to delay the beginning of hybrid schooling until September 14, the following Monday. This decision to delay in-person learning was met by a very mixed reaction from parents and students alike. Some commending the choice, others questioning whether this was the best road to take. 

The decision to halt the reopening of school was the best choice that could have been made given the circumstances. Some have argued that because there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pelham at the time of the party there was no reason to stop students from entering the building. However, just because there are no confirmed cases doesn’t mean that there may not be some anyway. Given Pelham’s close proximity to Mt. Vernon (with 24 active cases) and New Rochelle (with 51 as of September 10th), there is an obvious risk of infection given frequent interaction between each city and Pelham. Not to mention that many Pelham families spent their summers in some higher-risk places. Pelham is not an enclosed bubble despite what some may believe. Another concern expressed by students and families was that the announcement was too short notice. Families had to move fast in order to make proper arrangements for their young children and were frustrated that they were given such short notice when they had planned on the school system to take care of them. Yes, it is unfortunate that working parents had to scramble to find new means to take care of their children when they had originally depended on the school to take care of them. School is not daycare, as it first serves to educate children, however, the safety of students does fall under the responsibility of the school, strong emphasis on safety. It would simply be unsafe to put children in an environment where there is a possible risk of them catching COVID. Until the school was able to identify that the threat is minimal, remote learning was the best option.

In ordinary times, a student’s decision to attend a party in ‘The Woods’ would be of their own conscience or in an open dialogue with their parents. I wish to propose ‘a Code of Conduct’ if you will, given the extraordinary times that we live in now. Again, had there not been a pandemic, I wouldn’t care if someone could go and act however in whatever manner they please at such a party — that is their decision and it only affects them. But we are entering an age where our own decisions, like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing,  affects not only ourselves but our whole community. As a result, it would be wise to hold ourselves, especially our students, to a higher standard. Ergo, having a Code of Conduct for students to sign would be a sensible option. It would have to specify that the engagement in a risky activity would result in them not attending school in-person for at least two weeks. This wouldn’t be detrimental to their education given that there is now a solid base of online learning set up for the district. It would also set up consequences for one’s own actions, a sentiment that many already know, but such reinforcement is important. 

It is genuinely unfortunate that this year’s seniors won’t get the proper high school wrap-up that they’ve been promised since they were freshmen. While it may seem like a big senior bash in ‘The Woods’ is a rite of passage, it should be remembered that the community, as well as the country at large, is still fighting a dangerous virus that must be taken as it is – a threat to everyone. Pandemics, though it may seem like it, don’t last forever. Before you know it, the world will go back to its shenanigans, but it takes cooperation on all sides in order to one day return to normalcy.