Inconsistencies With Covid Policies at PMHS

Chinemere Njoku, Photo Editor, Sophomore

We live in a constantly changing world, and COVID has brought many new changes to our daily lives. PMHS has had several policies throughout the pandemic. Since the infamous “2-week break” that began on March 13, 2020, the school has undergone many changes.

The final months of the 2019-2020 school year did not include in-person learning. Classes were held online for 30 minutes per period. There was no school, and the graduates of 2020 received their diplomas for graduation through the windows of their cars. The school decided not to have a prom and canceled spring sports.

When students were finally allowed back into school at the start of the 2020-21 school year, the school made the most important policies. The first policies they had were “cohorts”, organized by “A” and “B.” It was intended to make contact tracing easier. It also made managing students easier when COVID was at its peak in New York. 

Our school policies remain the same as last year, such as maintaining a physical distance of 3 feet in the classroom and 6 feet at lunchtime, providing surgical masks to all students and staff who need one, offering COVID testing to eligible students, and encouraging participation in a weekly PCR testing program. However, masks are frequently not worn properly and are rarely worn as much as they should be at games, especially at the beginning of the year. Yet, when you are trying too hard not to get accustomed to them, it can become difficult.

In an interview, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Julia Chung stated that we have followed many different NYSDOH guidelines since the pandemic started. They can’t even create their policies since adherence to NYSDOH is required. Accordingly, all the large COVID policies were followed by the New York state schools. 

When students returned to school fully at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, sports were open and many had been eagerly anticipating going to football games. Masks were not required at the games. Unexpectedly, fans in the gym are encouraged to wear a mask but it’s not required. At the beginning of the indoor sports season, there weren’t any limits on spectators, but when the basketball season started people were allowed at the game.

Last season, the school did not require masks and limits for indoor sports, but now they are requiring or perhaps encouraging them. The state gives the school guidance on how many people can be indoors together which then leads to other decisions. There is a capacity limit on basketball games which seems like a reasonable idea but angers a lot of students because they aren’t used to limits during games because they weren’t implemented last season. The school had guidance from NYS but they had no choice but to change the environment of the school due to the guidance they got from policies made by NYS.

I am sure that without requiring vaccinations for students and staff, it makes it much more difficult to make decisions for the school and students require close contact, such as the capacity for basketball games that force students to wait to enter their school’s games. So if not everyone is vaccinated, the virus could spread quite easily, so it would be wise to require the capacity followed by a showing that the school abides by its COVID policies.

The omicron variant is one of the faster and more contagious variants of Sars-Cov-2. There were so many cases every hour, there were many emails sent out talking about the number of cases that happened in one day. When the school had Christmas break in December it was talked about that students wouldn’t come back at first. Other schools had closed and it was only expected Pelham schools would do the same thing. There was a virtual option for two weeks. The idea was that if you had traveled or had symptoms you would go virtual on a live stream. Their live stream isn’t a google meet where the student can talk and interact with the class at all. You don’t learn much on the live streams anyway. The school advised teachers to stop using Google Meet as a way to communicate and teach online students. The school hasn’t kept this consistent. The school still uses its long-term approach to COVID by maintaining a physical distance.

PMHS has made good decisions with COVID policy choices with guidance from NYS, based on how they have dealt with COVID policies over the years. School officials could be stricter about the mask mandate, social distancing, and providing more guidance for students when it comes to selecting the guidelines from the suggestions provided by NYS. The changes are understood to be for the benefit of PMHS students, faculty, and to prevent COVID from spreading rapidly at the school. Let’s hope the school can implement a set of rules to protect everyone as effectively as possible from the COVID pandemic now and even in years to come.