Classrooms are set up for students to return, but should they? (Matthew Lafferty)
Classrooms are set up for students to return, but should they?

Matthew Lafferty

Impending return to school stirs up opinions

July 26, 2021

After a year of distance learning, in-person school returns on August 4. While excitement is the dominant feeling among staff and students, there is also concerns about personal and public safety. In this Point-Counterpoint, two Pepper Bough staff writers tackle the issue and come to very different conclusions.

The only way to beat COVID is to return to school

Vaccination is our best hope for reducing risk of transmitting COVID.

San Bernardino County Sun

Vaccination is our best hope for reducing risk of transmitting COVID.

COVID-19 related deaths are on the rise. The Delta variant has become a major concern for scientists and the CDC. Even as we see a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, this next strain threatens to make it collapse atop us.

We must fight the temptation to return into hiding. Now more than ever.

When COVID-19 swept the nation, the quarantine locks snapped into place. Businesses were locked up, schools shut down, and the world seized by panic and despair. Millions lost their jobs, and had it not been for timely government support, millions more would have lost their homes and rentals. Here in Colton, the deaths of family and friends devastated us. Between the three communities comprising our district—Colton, Bloomington, and Grand Terrace—306 people lost their lives to the virus.

Now that vaccines are widely available, and California has cut the quarantine Master locks, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the business of living. We should reconsider how we handle being in public places, our interactions with strangers, and the impact of our decisions on others. Through re-evaluation, we can move forward and make our community safer and healthier.

It would be easy to look at these reports of the Delta variant and immediately act like turtles and head back for our shells. That would be a mistake. We can’t let the darkness win. We can’t allow our despair to take control of our lives.

Colton schools are reopening on August 4. We will be required to wear masks. We have to make sure that we follow the district guidelines because we need each other now more than ever.

The only alternative is to return home and conduct school on computers again. We know what this did to our friends. Many disengaged, turning off their cameras and refusing to participate. Grades plummeted. Even AP students with a history of straight As found themselves accepting lesser grades because of the alienation of distance learning. Our teachers struggled, too, often feeling like they were talking to empty voids as they tried to get through essential curriculum.

Distance Learning is not a real alternative. There has been talk about a hybrid schedule that would involve days at home and days at school. It is confusing and unclear how it would work for parents who need the consistency of a school schedule to get their families moving in the morning. And it is equally unclear how it would be an improvement over the dreaded distance learning model.

So, we must return to school. However, we must take responsibility for ourselves and each other. When we see someone without a mask, remind them to put theirs on. If someone reveals they are not vaccinated, recommend they get one. The only way for this pandemic to finally end is for us to stand together and do what is in all our best interests.

We can’t go back into hiding. Like superheroes, we need to put our masks on and fight.

Returning to school doesn’t add up

Staying+at+home+is+the+best+choice+as+COVID-19+rates+start+rising+again.+Photo+credit%3A+CDC

Centers for Disease Control

Staying at home is the best choice as COVID-19 rates start rising again. Photo credit: CDC

Take a look at the numbers. The math doesn’t lie.

Of the 39,686 Colton residents over the age of 12 who are eligible to receive vaccinations, just shy of 58% of them have received any vaccination. Less than half are fully vaccinated.

Let’s break this down a little bit more. Since the San Bernardino vaccination dashboard only offers demographic information for the entire county, we can assume the county numbers are acceptable averages for the whole of Colton. This means only 25% of our CHS students have been fully vaccinated.

When we return to school in August, three-quarters of our student body will be potentially exposed to COVID-19.

CJUSD recently announced it will require masks be worn indoors while staff and students are on campus, with outdoor application optional. Social distancing of less than six feet will be the norm when classes resume. Everyone will once again walk the hallways, sharing germs like ideas in a conversation. Couples will hold hands, stopping to hug and kiss each other. Friends will hug and laugh, each loud proclamation of love sending out a whole new armada of viral invaders.

We can’t blame the students for this. We are all social people. We crave connection and love. The pandemic showed us just how much we need one another for survival. We tried to feed that need with Zoom and Meet video calls; we shared information in text and on social media; we even arranged “safe” get togethers as much as possible. No matter what we did, though, we discovered our need for connection was greater than originally thought.

Despite our collective needs, and in spite of state and local assurances that schools are the safest places to be, we must stay quarantined until most of us are fully vaccinated. And by most, we’re talking around 90%. That is a huge number, but herd immunity can’t happen with less than half the city vaccinated.

Since neither the state of California, nor the U.S. government require confirmation of vaccination, it is a free for all out there. Vaccinated and unvaccinated walk around with equal belief they won’t get sick. Yet, both are still testing positive. Recently, the New York Yankees experienced an outbreak of COVID that caused the cancellation of games. 85% of their team was vaccinated, and they still couldn’t play ball. Unless our government takes notice of the success being experienced by France in getting its non-compliant citizens vaccinated, quarantine is the safest option.

People want to bring their kids back to school. They want a return to normalcy. And no one wants to learn in front of a computer screen listening to the wah-wah sounds of a teacher droning in their Air Pods. However, without an actual assurance that we are safe upon returning to brick-and-mortar school, we need to be staying home.

The math doesn’t lie.

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