The question of how to reopen schools is going to be a tough question for many inside our school systems. Ever since late March, students have not been allowed to attend school in person and all learning has been moved online.
It was a rough and confusing transition, as many kids simply cannot learn through a screen as well as they do with a classroom setting. Even for me, sitting at my computer for hours at a time puts a large mental strain on me. While the experience of virtual learning has not been pleasant to say the least, it was necessary considering the circumstances.
We saw the amount of infected people stay relatively low and even fail to increase over several time periods. However, keeping this number low is going to be a deciding factor in reopening schools. As a student, I personally would love to go back to school as long as certain boxes are checked off. First, cases must eventually stop increasing at a rapid rate. If this is the case, a large amount of resources must be invested to keep schools clean.
One of the biggest problems that Highlands County schools face is keeping their restrooms functioning and clean. A student opens doors, touches stall doors, flushes the toilets, touches toilet dispensers, and much more just while using the restroom. To get rid of any pathogens you may have encountered, you would simply wash your hand with soap and running water.
Unfortunately, a lot of equipment is aging significantly. The most common issue in a school restroom is a faulty or empty soap dispenser. These eventually get fixed, but they need to be fixed at a much faster pace to ensure that all students are able to wash their hands with soap. This would mean requiring staff to check the restrooms as often as possible and disinfecting bathrooms throughout the day.
Another area of concern for students would be the many building entrances, meaning door handles that are touched by everyone. Because these handles have always contained pathogens, even before this pandemic, I have seen some businesses install hands-free handles. These handles are curved to allow a person to use their forearm to open doors without using their hands, preventing the spread of pathogens to their face. Some businesses even have installed small devices on the bottom of doors to allow people to open the doors with their shoes. If these devices are too costly, even having hand sanitizer available at each entrance would help prevent any pathogens from spreading.
In the event that schools are not given the green light to open in August, resources should then be invested in virtual learning.
Let me state that Highlands County teachers have done a great job in moving all of their lessons online with basically a week of preparation. But just like everything else in this world, there is always room to improve.
Teachers should be given training sessions to keep students motivated, considering how tiring computer screens can be. Personally, it took a lot to finish the last week of online learning as I lost a lot of motivation. If teachers can be taught more ways to keep students motivated, then I do not see online learning as a problem.
Those in charge of our schools should also invest in providing students with access to more reading content. A lot of classes that were based on reading content, such as English classes, have had to move to a different curriculum.
These two things can help students and teachers alike to improve our education system.
Miguel Arceo is a student athlete at Sebring High School.^p