COVID Forces Students and Faculty to Face a New “Normal”
by Faith Mosley and Jackson Moore
The rippling effects of COVID-19 will remain with schools and students for a long time. COVID-19 affects student populations in New York City in a variety of ways, making students question what “normal” should look like in schools.
From the recent cancellation of the January 2022 regents to the increased COVID testing within school communities, many students are facing a stressful balance between trying to stay safe and trying to keep up with their education.
The New York City Department of Education (DOE) decided that schools would stay open despite the rise in COVID cases. While a December 21, 2021 memorandum from the Commissioner of the DOE stated that: “The Board of Regents and the Department will continue to monitor data related to the impact of the ongoing pandemic, when making decisions regarding June Regents, the January regents have been cancelled.”
Yet the DOE expects daily classes to continue in person. This has affected students’ ability to feel safe in the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) building and around their peers.
“It’s weird because one minute you’re regular and you have nothing to worry about and then immediately it just changes. Because just this morning I was fine and now I hear about the positive case of someone I was in close contact with and now I’m freaking out,” Kaylin Ruiz, an FSSA senior fine art student said.
Kaylin is not alone, many students feel stressed by the uncertainty occurring within the pandemic. It often seems that the situation changes rapidly. With one minute cases being manageable, and the next having to quarantine from your best friend, it is understandable that people of all ages, especially teenagers, feel distressed.
Despite the alarming rate at which COVID is spreading in schools, students advocate for schools remaining open, keeping in mind the dread that came along with online schooling in the 2020/2021 school year.
FSSA senior fine arts student Andrew Knierim expressed his concerns regarding the new DOE COVID-19 safety protocols.
“I feel like they are going to try their best but they are not going to be as on top of things as they hope to be,” he said.
However, Andrew prioritizes his learning and his mental health.
“I feel like I have to just take what I can get unfortunately,” he said.
Even with fear that accompanies coming into the building the thought of going back online outweighs the discomfort.
Many students express frustration with the Department of Education, accusing the department of doing whatever they can to keep schools open, despite COVID safety. One of the biggest issues most students have is with the reduced five day quarantine period, over the previous 10 days that were in place back in 2021.
“I think [the five day quarantine period] is bull!… After five days I had COVID and I was not fine. I was coughing and my job was like ‘come to work.’ I think they should definitely extend it longer,” said Miekayla Pierre, a senior drama major.
Miekayla isn’t alone, fellow senior Ava Mcdermott says she’d rather it be ten days.
“I read that it’s just like five days that you’re most contagious, but you still have COVID after that… I don’t feel safe with that,” she said.
Many students feel that there could be good alternatives for going in-person, and that it isn’t necessary to be in-person to gain a good education, especially when it comes to personal safety.
“I feel like there should be a remote option for at least this month,” senior drama student Kiara Jaquez said.
A remote option would solve the health concerns of not being around other people, while still allowing students to grow with their education.
Despite any possible danger related to COVID transmission, the Department of Education remains committed to keeping classes in person. With the implementation of new safety protocols and precautions, the DOE is keeping school buildings as safe as possible.
One new DOE guidelines states, “To keep our school communities safe upon everyone’s return to school buildings, we strongly encourage that all students get tested for COVID-19, through a PCR, lab-based rapid test, or a home test kit, before returning to school on January 3, regardless of vaccination status.”
The DOE, however, no longer requires students to quarantine if they are in close proximity to a COVID-positive person unless they have symptoms and test positive themselves. Further, the DOE will provide a take-home rapid test kit to all students who have been in a classroom with a person who tests positive.
The effects of the Covid pandemic have caused large waves of anxiety on students in a variety of ways. Going forward, adults and educators can help students’ mental health by listening to children’s concerns and through teaching students about self-care and good mental health practices.