In the last few weeks of October, the Scarsdale School District reported four new positive COVID-19 cases, leading to a cancellation of all extracurricular activities. Following the rules from the Department of Health (DOH), the District initiated contract tracing and quarantined all students and faculty members who may be at risk. While the spread of the virus reportedly occurred at social events and gatherings outside of SHS, many students are taking preventative measures and choosing the virtual model.
The gradual normalization of the coronavirus has led many students to neglect the pandemic’s severity, but recent COVID cases have served as a wake-up call. “I feel like most people got used to COVID… [the pandemic] is definitely far from over,” said Jackie Lu ’22. Aside from the impact of safety and wellbeing, the new COVID cases have also put a damper on sports and standardized tests. “For me to switch back to in-person, my soccer season will need to be [over] as well as my SAT,” explained Justine Karp, a junior who recently switched to all-remote classes. Recent cases did not arise from SHS, which shows the difficulty to enforce social distancing outside of the building. This prompted many students to switch to e-learning, despite the drawbacks. ” I do not think my level of learning will [diminish] because since I [chose] to be all virtual [and will pay] extra close attention to make sure I do not miss anything,” continued Karp.
While some students just realized how serious the threat of the pandemic, others have been remote-learning since the start of the school year. “My parents chose [for me] to go virtual because they wouldn’t feel safe [if] I went to school,” explained Lu. The current hybrid model only accounts for two half days in school for either cohort, which virtual students believe are not worth the risk of possibly perpetuating the virus. “For certain classes, learning online is harder,” admitted Lu, since teachers are still learning how to engage and incorporate remote students to the classroom. Even though the quality of e-learning still needs some improvement, Lu still attests that safety comes first.
Although a cause for concern, recent coronavirus cases have not warranted a need for school closures. According to the protocols in the SHS restart plan, Andrew Cuomo requires that schools close if the infection rate rises above nine percent, but “the Governor [could also] shutters schools as he did last spring,” explained Dr. Thomas Hagerman, the superintendent of Scarsdale Schools. “If this were to happen, the Governor would also have to lift this order for a return to school,” Hagerman added. Before a possible shutdown, Scarsdale may also consult the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH) for early warning signs.
The sudden transition from in-person classes to all-remote has reduced class sizes, prompting students to ask whether continuing in-person learning would be worth the trouble for the few that still attend. “Even if we have many students participating in virtual-only learning, I think it is [crucial] to keep in-person learning for students who need and want that option,” concluded Hagerman.