Back to School? Post-COVID School Life


Image by Gustavo Segura

Highschool students in Orange County following COVID-19 school guidelines as they walk to their next class

Students and teachers are wondering how the next upcoming 2021-2022 school year will be like, as more vaccines are being made available. While states are officially starting to reopen their doors to students including Texas, Oregon, Washington, Florida, and other states opening up to select grades and schools.

With the rapid increase of vaccinated people, many people hope to be back in person  (if they weren’t already before the summer holiday) by this coming August of the 2021-2022 school year. While some select schools have been open since September of 2020, such as the city of Orange County, many teachers have found the decision quite risky especially with only one vaccine being available for the age group of 12-15 years old. The risk was much higher to the schools that had been open before even the vaccine was first available to school staff members. 

As one anonymous teacher from Orange County explains, “It disturbs me the most that the people, namely the school board, who are the ones who voted for our return from online to in-person learning are not educators, nor do they have to expose themselves to the same unsafe conditions that we do in the classroom.” 

While there are many doubts from both teachers and students –as well as parents– who are worried for their safety as well as others, schools have taken the time to review the new rules regarding CDC COVID safety laws. These regulations require students and faculty members to wear a mask at all times, except during lunch, and stay at least three feet apart from other students. Apart from that, they are expected to use hand sanitizer or wash their hands while handling items which includes cleaning desktops and supplies after they have been used/touched daily before and after each class. 

While younger children are more likely to be asymptomatic they are also more susceptible to transferring the virus onto other students and adults alike than vice versa. According to the CDC, only 7% of children under the age of 18 have been reported with COVID-19, while 1% of the children 18 and under have resulted in death from the virus.

A quote from a teacher voicing her concerns regarding the reopening of schools.

Furthermore, they explain, “Some students have come to school for several days even knowing that they were living with family members who had tested positive and then they themselves tested positive.” They continue, “There are privacy laws in place that protect the identity and personal medical information of anyone who is sick, but those laws are also troublesome because they prevent the school community from really knowing if they had contact with a positive individual.”

While it does allow them to inform others that someone from their class/school tested positive according to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) they are not allowed to identify an individual specifically with the exception of the individual (and or guardian’s) consent. 

On the other hand, states have lifted the law regarding wearing a mask in public spaces. With 20+ states lifting their mask mandate including Arizona, Colorado, Alabama, etc. Excluding some school districts in select states such as Arizona still require their students to follow the current CDC COVID guidelines including wearing a mask while on campus. 

As one anonymous high schooler from Arizona states, “It’s because in Arizona they lifted the state mandate from masks even though my school said you still have to wear masks, a lot of people aren’t and the school isn’t really doing anything about it” 

And while it hasn’t only been in just Arizona, the teacher from Orange County that asked to remain anonymous explains, “While I understand the desire for the added social aspect of school…many students are already choosing to hang out with friends and classmates outside of school and will continue to do so whether or not we are distance learning or in hybrid.” 

Despite some of the schools enforcing the rules inside of campus, they have no control over what happens outside of school, which could potentially lead to the spreading of the virus both on campus and out in public. 

While for some teachers following the CDC guidelines hasn’t been an issue, as for one teacher Mr. Thomas, a Famous Tik Tok as well as a teacher from Arizona who makes Tik Tok videos about daily life in the classroom has just started releasing videos about what it was like in the hybrid schedule. With over 500k followers on Tik Tok, he shares the ups and downs in a hybrid classroom, as he stated in an interview, “The main concern is both personal burnout and also not being able to fully focus on either online or in-person students, as I am constantly switching back and forth.” 

While the hassle of handling both online and in-person students has taken a toll on teachers who have to constantly be going back and forth between screens and faces. Mr. Thomas states,” I prefer fully online, as I noticed more engagement when they’re all in one place and I feel more productive and efficient.” 

With schools starting to reopen more they are hoping to have everyone vaccinated and present before or by the next school year. The new COVID vaccine has been made available for ages 12 and older and while schools can’t force students or teachers to go get vaccinated they are suggesting that they do it for the safety of those around them. As schools continue to open we can only hope that everyone is well informed to stay safe and help in stopping the spread of the virus.