September 27th, 2019
Safety gets prioritized with virtual learning
SAT. | 9-12-20 | OPINION
With a hectic start to the fall semester, at least 902 currently known cases of coronavirus in Pitt County and the quick move online by several state universities including East Carolina University, many local health officials have begun recommending that schools switch to completely remote. On Thursday, Aug. 27, a school board meeting was held to put the recommendation to a vote. In the end, seven of the nine board members voted in favor of continuing the hybrid plan. Yet, many Rose community members have begun to question the sustainability of this plan in the coming weeks with steadily growing case numbers.
While it seems that most of the cases so far have been contracted outside of school, the risk of coming to school sick and spreading the disease is still pertinent. Especially in hallways, where the only thing guaranteeing that people will remain socially distant are the stickers on the floor, the risk holds to be high.
The considerable time difference in when cases are reported and when the school chooses to make an announcement is also concerning. So much responsibility has been placed on students this year to accurately report each and every case and to quarantine if they have been exposed in any manner, whether or not it was at school. If someone has been exposed to the virus outside of school, the reach of administration is limited in that they cannot reasonably contact every student prone to each out-of-school exposure. This extreme dependency on students creates further instability in the schools. Considering several of the cases so far may have been contracted through a single gathering, the question of where PCS will draw the line and say enough is enough is becoming more pressing.
After all, it is not just the students who are being put at risk of infection. Their families and teachers are also taking on that heightened risk. In some ways, this is even more of a concern since the likelihood of a person having underlying conditions increases with age. Despite concerns, however, President Donald Trump announced on Aug. 21 that teachers are now categorized as essential workers. According to this policy, even if they have been directly exposed to the virus, essential workers are still required to work unless they are symptomatic. This mandate further stresses the fragility of continuing in-person learning. PCS’s current plan could easily crumble. It has already been put into question.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a COVID cluster as “two or more cases connected in time and place.” We understand the inability of the school system in preventing students from gathering (non-socially distant) outside of school. In fact, this is one of our main concerns. Even if PCS were to require two weeks of online school between in-person weeks, they could not guarantee that students would choose to follow quarantining guidelines.
Infographic by Tierney Reardon
The unpredictability of the virus has also become more apparent. For example, one can test positive without having any symptoms, as seen though the group of Rose students attending face to face who have now tested positive. PCS needs to treat this issue with the urgency it so clearly calls for.
Having knowledge of these possible clusters of the virus, we believe that a firm threshold of maximum case numbers should be established to create a limit at which PCS would move to completely remote learning. This communication allows students across Pitt County to hold the School Board members accountable for their decisions since they so directly affect the well-being of students and their families now more than ever.
Without regular school-funded, mandatory testing, the safety of the Rose community is being further placed in jeopardy. Since regular testing is not currently an option, we feel that the growing case numbers should be more highly regarded and at the very least, communication with the Rose population should be increased and a threshold set. We believe, however, that the best solution would be for the PCS system to switch to all virtual learning.