The effect of the full student return to Utica

Oliver Gamez, Editor

With all of Utica’s students returning four days a week in March, there have certainly been difficulties and speculation over whether this is really the best thing for everyone. 

Covid cases seem to be decreasing in the media, but not in the schools. Not our school. In the previous two months before all students returned, there were multiple cases of students needing to be quarantined for exposure and many felt splitting the school’s population still allowed for too many students in one area and not enough social distancing. 

With just the first week of all students being back, some say there have been nearly hundreds sent home for quarantine and exposure. There are just too many students and  an improper and dangerously high capacity of occupancy in the classrooms and hallways now.

Students have been plucked from their classes one by one every single day, and now every room seems to be nearing less than half of the occupancy it’s supposed to.

One way hallways and stairways are extremely congested and inefficient; there is no distance or true safety precautions if the 60+ students that leave the medical science hallway after class have to wait for the hundreds of students leaving the cafeteria at once to clear. Especially when every single student in that area has to go up the same narrow staircase through the same one door entrance.

The student population has been split for weeks about everyone returning at once, and rightfully so. With how many contact-tracing cases that arose when only half of the school was in session, many feel that administrators shouldn’t have even considered allowing full return. But money is money, and students being in the school building certainly gets that money. 

It’s also highly believed that was the true reason for the increase in student presence, even in the wake of community cases rising. The schools had simply gone too long without the precious funding that student bodies provides.

If the administration is so worried about the students quality of learning and the stress of doing online school, then perhaps they should not have forcibly returned all of the school’s 1500+ students to the classroom when there are already daily outbreaks and the majority of them agree that the building shouldn’t even be open in the first place. As well as students generally being used to doing classes remotely, many admit that they have gotten used to it, and would prefer staying remote or in cohorts if in-person learning is going to continue looking like this.

On top of the daily quarantine cases, many students see now that the ‘quality of education’ administrators stressed so much about is really the exact same as it was with all students working remotely. All classwork is based on the computers and the coursework remains paperless. Students are still required to be glued to their laptops as they were at home. 

Having been quarantined myself twice now in the last month, the apparent lack of care for student health is appalling. Instead of allowing students to remain in the safety of their own home, it seems that administration continually chooses to risk the health and livelihoods of students for the sake of receiving state funding.

Just this last week, it took the school two days to notify me that I was exposed, and in that time I’d interacted with multiple students and even gone to work. None of those that I’d exposed had even been notified. Keeping the school populated is foolish and students need to return to virtual learning before the cases are too high to handle.