Picture this: Students are in school, and some are refusing to wear a mask. Kids are coughing, sneezing and going home sick. Within a week, schools are closed because people are infected with coronavirus. There are too many COVID-19 cases in our state. The number of total cases in Massachusetts alone has reached 112,673, with 8,519 deaths, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. If we return to school now, we will be back to square one. Instead, we should start the school year with remote learning.

There have been a lot of adults talking about whether or not to go to school but no kids’ points of view. As a high school sophomore, I understand people are worried about their education. Some people miss the social aspects of school, but is being social worth getting sick? I don’t feel safe returning to school. In-person learning, where large groups are gathered indoors, would put many people at risk of COVID-19. Some schools have large populations and do not have space to social distance. Remote learning was hard and confusing for many as we were just getting used to it and trying to figure it out. Now that students and teachers have done it for a period of time, we have gotten better at it.

People would be at risk of COVID-19 if they were together in classrooms. Evidence shows that children under 10 don’t spread the virus as fast as adults do, but they still have a chance. Kids from teens to adulthood, which is the prime age of going to school, are able to spread the virus the same amount as adults would. According to a New York Times article, a study from South Korea shows that older kids “can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.” The article quotes infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm as saying, “I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population. ... There will be transmission.” This quote means we need to be aware of the hazards of the coronavirus. If we get together in bigger groups, we are more likely to spread COVID-19.

The kids in the prime school age are in larger groups so there is not enough space to social distance. If there are many people gathered in schools then there will be people getting infected and some could die. According to another New York Times article, people in Jerusalem opened schools too early and then immediately closed them. “The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers, and relatives,” according to the author. If you reopen schools too soon, then more people will get sick. Is it really worth the risk? If we make the same mistake that Israel made, then we didn’t learn from that experience. I understand that some people think that if you follow the health guidelines you will be fine. Even if everyone follows them, you still will not be totally safe. How much of a risk do we really want to put our children, families, and ourselves in?

In overcrowded schools, you can’t stay 6 feet apart. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “Social distancing is the practice of increasing the space between individuals and decreasing the frequency of contact to reduce the risk of spreading a disease (ideally to maintain at least 6 feet between all individuals, even those who are asymptomatic).” If you are not six feet from kids and teachers you could spread the virus. Therefore, kids and teachers should do remote learning until COVID-19 cases have decreased significantly. Masconomet chose to do remote learning for the beginning of the school year, which can save lives. The Boston Globe says Massachusetts is willing to let schools use 3 feet of social distance instead of 6. “(A) debate over social distancing exemplifies how difficult it will be for local districts to reopen school buildings after the pandemic forced their closure in March, especially in convincing a nervous public that everyone will be safe. A Suffolk University poll recently found almost half of white parents and 60% of Black and Latino parents doubted schools would have adequate safety measures.” If school buildings were bigger, then there would be more space to maintain 6 feet of distance. It is true that many kids don’t have the technology, skill, or space to learn at home and need to be in the classroom. If kids who have computers do remote learning at home then it should give the kids who don’t have as much privilege space in school to social distance while still getting their education.

Can we make remote learning work for kids? Remote learning was difficult at the beginning as we just slammed on the brakes and jumped right into it. However, now that we’ve had a few months to get used to it, it should be easier. Kids and teachers have gotten better at remote learning, and now teachers have had more time to plan. It will be safer because you’re not exposing your community to COVID-19. A Forbes article about how to make remote learning successful states part of the problem is kids aren’t showing up for class. Many kids I know made up excuses for why they missed class. To fix that problem the article suggests, “...make goals and expectations crystal clear. Teachers should specify when students should show up and exactly what tasks they need to complete.” Another problem is that there are too many sites to go to. Forbes suggests that if you keep it simple then it will be easier to follow. With remote learning, it is easier to stay on one topic and delve into that topic instead of jumping around and going into a lot of different topics. If you make it too complex for students then it just gets us stuck. Some kids are visual, but others need to interact. So if you make online interactions, then you can be successful.

I think remote learning would be a very successful way to start off the school year. Staying safe is more important than in-person learning where we run the risk of getting COVID-19. Some of the reasons why we should do remote learning: if we get together in a large group, we can spread the coronavirus. Schools are not built for social distancing, so it would be hard to have the whole class back at a safe distance. Some people think that remote learning won’t work, but we can make it work if we all work together.

Jessie Miller is a rising 10th grader who lives in Boxford.

 

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