Return to in-person learning prompts new social distancing policies

Students+eat+lunch+in+the+cafeteria.+On+days+with+inclement+weather%2C+students+may+eat+in+the+cafeteria%2C+multipurpose+room%2C+practice+gym+and+theatre+lobby.

Ally Bliss

Students eat lunch in the cafeteria. On days with inclement weather, students may eat in the cafeteria, multipurpose room, practice gym and theatre lobby.

Ally Bliss

After a year of virtual school, many Midtown students are happy to return to in person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. However, not all students are accommodating the Covid-19 social distancing guidelines put in place by the administration. 

As of Aug. 27, Midtown has reported 12 students who have tested positive for Covid-19.  This has sparked concern within the Midtown community and has made people question if the guidelines put in place will be effective. 

“The virus is out of control,” school nurse Wanda Taylor said. “When students bunch up in the halls and don’t wear their masks,—it’s frustrating. The students are causing this problem and we [the administration] are trying to help you.”  

One of the requirements put in place by the administration includes an indoor mask mandate.  When students are outdoors or eating they can take their masks off but are required to remain three feet apart from one another. While these requirements seem reasonable and effective, some students are concerned about how the school population is following these guidelines.

“I feel like there is going to be a bump in cases,” junior Aidan Walls said. “It’s hard to trace the students in each classroom. If I get Covid-19 and go from one class to another, I don’t know who I will come in contact with on the way to my next class. That makes me nervous.”

Midtown has a large student body of approximately 1,550 students, which contributes to congested hallways and stairwells. Returning to in-person school has challenged social distancing guidelines as the hallways and stairwells are considerably packed with people. Some students wish that Midtown would offer different options for schooling, fueled by fear of contracting Covid.

“No matter how hard you try, you’re always pushed up against someone,” junior Lucy Adams said. “I would like to think that students at Midtown are taking Covid-19 seriously, but I have noticed students congregating close together which makes me nervous. I think that Midtown should let more students go back to virtual school.”

The staff at Midtown is working hard to ensure that Covid-19 guidelines are respected throughout campus. Teachers have been monitoring the hallways and enforcing mask wearing and social distancing rules in congested areas, such as the cafeteria and courtyard.

“We try to keep kids moving in the hall instead of congregating,” Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman said. “We need to keep reminding students of the cases and the fact that Covid is very much here—we’re doing what we can with what we have.” 

Students and staff are also concerned about lunchtime practices. Most students sit outside for lunch, and teachers have noticed that this is when social distancing practices tend to slip the most. 

“I’d like to see students reminding themselves to follow the guidelines at lunch,” Dr. Bockman said. “I’d like to see a campaign from the students to hold themselves accountable. I have seen students eating and then putting their masks back on. I think people are trying.”

Although social distancing guidelines have not always been practiced, mask wearing has overall been respected. Some students have also signed up to take voluntary Covid-19 tests offered by the school. 

“I am not as concerned about myself,” sophomore Emma Tureman said. “I know that there are people who are at high risk, and there are people who haven’t had easy access to a vaccine. I just want everyone to get vaccinated and tested so we can have a normal school year again.”

Students and staff are optimistic for a normal school year. As each day passes, they become more familiar with the new Covid-19 guidelines at school. The Midtown community has come together during such an unusual time, and staff administration wants a collective sense of unity with students, now more than ever. 

“We want this to work, but there’s only so much yelling and reminding that you can do,” Bockman said. “For 15-17 year old kids, we have to take care of each other. To keep the mindset that we’re keeping each other safe is really important. We’re all in this together, and we can’t forget that.”

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