OP-ED: Are Free-Periods a Little Too Free?


Aidan Cocuelle, Reporter, Senior

This year, in order to maximize social distancing and safety guidelines, the school has allowed all high school students to leave the building during their respective lunch and free periods. Students are free to go as they please, provided that they return to the building before the end of the period. Students must wear masks at all times… inside the school that is, but the moment they step outside the building, their goodwill is the only thing keeping their masks on. This leaves the school vulnerable to possible contamination and exposure. So, what is the school doing to combat this issue?

Senior Ethan Paragus stated, “I occasionally leave during my free. I buy food at the deli and everyone there has their masks on but the only thing I would consider as imposing risk is the kids sitting on the picnic tables in the park.” 

It is already common knowledge that COVID-19 cannot be contracted from food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifies that, “currently there is no evidence that people can get COVID-19 by eating or handling food.” The actual risk is if a restaurant is not following CDC guidelines which are clearly specified on their database in Considerations for Restaurants and Bars: if masks are not being worn by the staff, if people are eating in small poor ventilated areas, etc. The CDC classifies eating at restaurants with take-out and outdoor dining as “more risk”, being ranked directly above “least risk”. Students eating together can also pose an issue if one has been exposed to COVID-19.

Senior Max Cuomo said, “I do leave school during a free period… I go home to eat lunch and I have not gone to a restaurant during the pandemic.”

If a student were to come into the building after being exposed to COVID-19, the school has precautions in place to contain an infection. First off, the school is disinfected daily and everyone entering the building must hand in a release form stating they haven’t shown any COVID-19 symptoms. Students that don’t have said form will be required to have their temperature checked by school staff. In the event of an outbreak at PMHS, the infected persons will be either brought to the nurse or placed in an isolation area, and sent home. 

For some students the risk of contracting is non-existent insofar as they are practicing mindfulness and following daily prevention actions; and the places they decide to go are doing the same. But what is to stop a student from creating a spread as a result of reckless behavior? Simply revoking the privilege to leave during free periods will not provide an adequate solution, as students can gather in large groups outside of school if they chose to. The protocols put in place cannot protect a student that does not adhere, and that in turn puts all students at risk; a failure to do so is likely to end in an outbreak. We are currently experiencing a resurgence of cases throughout the U.S., this second wave can be even more dangerous if people have the impression that the virus is passing.