For students of The Philadelphia School District (PhilaSD), charters, and school privates, most were taken out of class March 2020 when Covid cases were first rising. Nearly two years since we began social distancing, many schools expectedly have varying policies and norms with the disease.
The ongoing threat of Covid-19 and its variants has resulted in us building around the pathogen as opposed to the original task of eliminating the virus altogether. Academic institutions across the world now question how they will continue proper social distancing for the possible long future.
Contact is an everyday part of school life from the assigned seat shared by 8+ students a day to touching the handles on hallway doors. Hand sanitizer stations and Covid safety posters only can do so much.
With the emergence of more contagious but less lethal variants such as Omicron BA1 (and the recently found BA2 Omicron), many families and staff alike are wondering how school districts will either restrict or loosen the present guidelines.
As of March 9th, the School District has made masks optional. Some have leaned to the optional side. Others, such as myself, will be keeping their mask UP. We should not act like Covid-19 is the only disease that is infectious at schools and in public. The Flu, Chicken Pox, Meningitis, Mumps, Lice, Strep Throat, Scabies, Measles are just an assortment of diseases that are prevalent and contagious at school.
All of these illnesses are preventable when the right norms are implemented. Lowering social contact, washing hands (especially before you eat), and using disease protective gear are all viable ways to reduce the spread of an array of sicknesses.
I’m sure you’ve heard it: a student or teacher weighing in, and it’s not surprising; Covid has been a daily debated topic for years and the polarization shows in the classroom.
As we are aware, schools even in the same district can have varying Covid guidelines. A student from a Northeast Philly private high school says that the school has fostered a healthy and Covid conscious student and staff body. They account for their school's current policies, “Teachers are required to be vaccinated but not students. If you have symptoms you have to test. Teachers are usually pro-vax and it’s encouraged through social norms”. Further, they added efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid in the school through contact tracing QR codes in the lunchroom and a strict mask mandate.
One student from a South Philly public school adds how conflicting their school’s policies around social distancing and vaccines are. They protest, “(The school) sets up covid testing and vaccination clinics almost monthly. Not many besides those who are already protected get vaccinated at the tents though… Some teachers will try to encourage new vaccinations but the admin doesn’t like that”.
Supposedly, even the most common social distancing norms have fallen apart, “Teachers can’t call-out kids with their mask down anymore.” Don’t trust me, trust every epidemiologist worth their cent. Mask wearing, vaccination, and other guidelines do reduce Covid cases, but how effective these precautions are is questioned when the goal of what happens to this infection population and percentage-wise changes.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Though the hope of forever eradicating Covid-19 from us grows further with every infection, there are still many ways in which these guidelines help. Even the immunocompromised are still vulnerable to the newer Covid variants, and that’s important to remind ourselves as we loosen social restrictions.
While no masks in school is now an option for many, there is more out there than Covid. Look at reputable news sources, question where you get your facts, and stay healthy.