Ethan D'amato '21
I still remember exactly how I felt when I got the news that St. Albans would be closing three days early for my junior year spring break. Sitting in my room watching YouTube, the excitement I felt when I received the email was palpable. Of course, in retrospect, I can say with the utmost confidence that whatever I did during those three days could not make up for the numerous opportunities I have missed since. It's been two hundred and thirty eight days since I received that email, and for all two hundred and thirty eight of them, I have been in quarantine. To some, it may seem like overkill, but to me, it was necessary. That being said, as D.C. enters its second phase of reopening and STA enters its second week of Hybrid, it may seem like the perfect time to break quarantine and opt into school for the coming weeks. Unfortunately, for many students that have decided to opt out of our school’s first round of in person classes, myself included, it still doesn’t feel like the right time. Many of my friends are confused as to exactly why I haven’t opted in, but to me, the reasons are clear.
Covid-19 is truly a scary disease. While that may seem like an obvious statement, I feel that during this time of reopening people have forgotten just how much damage it can do. It has infected upwards of fifty-two million people worldwide, and over one million have died from the disease since its initial outbreak. Covid can do a lot of damage, and, despite some institutions deciding to reopen, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Covid is not going away.
Even though many institutions are feeling safe enough to reopen, the number of Covid cases per day is rising faster than ever before. The decision to reopen schools and businesses has only exacerbated the rise in these numbers. As we move towards the middle of autumn, it is plain to see that the second wave is truly rearing its head, and while it might be fun to go back to school and be with friends, in my opinion, returning still poses too much of a risk.
Without a doubt, there are many drawbacks to continuing to quarantine. Missing out on social events, school, and just everyday life can be a challenge, but for many, it's worth the tradeoff. For some members of the Close community, Covid isn’t just a small hurdle or a tiny cold, it's a real health risk to either oneself or one’s family. In my case both of my parents have a high-risk of complications that come with the virus which is enough for me to justify my choice to opt out of school and stay home during this time. It’s a difficult time which calls for difficult decisions, and I’ve made mine.
Students across the country are struggling with the same decision - whether or not to return to school. Most schools expect only 50-70% of students to attend classes in person, while some are seeing fewer than 40%. Hundreds of students are thinking through the same tradeoffs as I am, and to have an effective reopening strategy, we need to understand the reasons behind students deciding to stay home. Families have cited reasons ranging from vulnerable members in the home to logistics as their reasons for keeping kids out of school. CDC guidelines encourage spacing, ventilation, and disinfection of all surfaces, adding to the complexity of hosting in person classes. Anecdotally, my own situation and those of my classmates are indicative of the broader situations all American students face, and I hope that by understanding my decision making process and taking into account nationwide pandemic statistics, the school can work towards the most effective solution available.