OP-ED: Is PMHS Ready to Go Full Time In-Person?

Rachel Lief, Staff Reporter, Junior

As Pelham surpasses the one year marker of the closure of schools for the statewide stay-at-home order, parents have begun firmly pushing for the opening of schools in the Pelham Union Free School District for full time in-person learning. Their desire for their children to have a semi-normal education supersedes their willingness to face a gradual return to normality in tandem with caution in regards to COVID-19. Coronavirus has undoubtedly had numerous negative impacts on the lives of individuals worldwide, yet it is integral for the reinstatement of pre-COVID-19 conditions to occur in accordance with the guidance of experts. In order to safely reopen schools without a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, it is crucial to follow the recommendations of people who are educated on this matter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies hybrid models as “some risk” and “medium risk,” depending on the logistics, while full time in-person models are classified as “higher risk” and “highest risk.” This difference within categorization represents the greater potential for increasing the spread of COVID-19 among full time in-person models in comparison with hybrid models. 

The current number of daily cases in New York State is similar to that in mid-April and the beginning of December, when schools in Pelham did not follow the full time in-person model. The current number of coronavirus deaths in New York State is similar to that in May when more stringent restrictions were in place. In addition to these relationships between present and past coronavirus cases and deaths, there are now more contagious COVID-19 variants that increase the rate of transmission.

The application of the full-time in-person model would result in Pelham Memorial High School (PMHS) operating at full capacity, which would potentiate the transmission of coronavirus at higher rates than during the time that PMHS operates at a reduced capacity. Additionally, classrooms are not equipped to safely handle an influx of students in a pandemic world, as they lack adequate ventilation and appropriate appliances such as air purifiers that would help mitigate the spread of germs. For PMHS to operate at full capacity, it is crucial for safe measures to be enacted, otherwise, full time in-person learning would not be conducive to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Since open windows are a non-substantial method of combating the spread of COVID-19, teachers have been forced to personally purchase appliances that create a more healthy classroom environment. This underscores the notion that Pelham is not prepared to safely reopen schools for full time in-person learning if teachers are not provided with the necessary supplies to maintain safety.

Furthermore, there is a significant number of people who do not take proper precautions to adequately reduce the spread of COVID-19 by gathering in large groups. This is entirely contradictory to the idea of exhibiting caution during the pandemic in order to prevent risking the lives of individuals. Therefore, as people continue to incessantly make irresponsible decisions that negatively impact both themselves and others, it is illogical to compound the risks that their choices result in.

An influential factor of a school environment is the student body, thus the actions of students determine the efficacy of the measures that are implemented by district officials. Consequently, if students do not make sensible decisions that are considerate of those around them, the atmosphere within school will reflect that.

People who have advocated for the prompt implementation of the full time in-person model have cited the educational benefits that being in school full time entails. This is a vital aspect of education that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it can be improved upon for the remainder of the duration of the hybrid model. The health and wellness of students is crucial to keep in mind when making decisions regarding the reopening of PMHS. Therefore, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it is vital to keep in mind the long term impacts of reopening schools.