In-person schooling needs to return as soon as possible


Brady Saylor

There has been great debate over whether or not we, as high school students, should return to school this year, due to the looming and continued threat of COVID-19 on our staff and students. Despite this, the best option all around would be to allow most students to return to in-person school due to the increasing safety from and immunity to the virus and the vitality of daily social interactions as children and adolescents.

Firstly, we need to look at the distance between now and when we last began school in-person. Back in September when we first attempted to bring students to school, we had no experience dealing with the virus in-person and less safety precautions than are available now.

But now, in January, after one attempt at in-person instruction under the school’s belt, we have the experience to modify our structure to be more effective–for example, lessening the number of students in each class room, spreading out seating charts, cleaning hallways and surfaces, among others.

With the further distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, however, these safety precautions themselves will prove to be less and less necessary anyway, as more people are vaccinated and protected. This increasing safety is another reason why in-person schooling is a possibility for many students.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the immunologist and leader of the President’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that herd immunity to COVID-19 with help of the vaccine could be possible by the end of summer, 2021.

While of course not set in stone, the distribution of the vaccine will prove immensely helpful even if full herd immunity has yet to be achieved. For example, school teachers and the elderly are already receiving the vaccine soon–and if the timeline for distribution includes students soon too, then it’s possible that in-person school can return mask-free before the 2021-2022 school year even begins.

Lastly, one of the less obvious reasons that in-person school is beneficial and necessary is that social interaction is absolutely essential for living a emotionally fulfilling and psychologically healthful life, especially so in children and adolescents.

Our students have been in a cramped, antisocial online learning environment for nearly a year now, missing out on the daily eight hours of social interaction they had been exposed to for their entire lives prior. As well, social interaction outside of school has been equally difficult for the same reasons–turning bubbly socialites into nocturnal hermits.

COVID-19 has fully shaken the social lives and mental health of all people–students especially. The sooner we are able to bring the social lives of all people back on track, the better–for mental health, for emotional well being, and even for productivity and labor. Humans, fundamentally, are social creatures, and that’s especially apparent as our socialization has been stripped from us.

Overall, the return to in-person schooling will remain contentious and subject to instability, and may not be an option for every student–but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Given the increasing safety of school by nature of the vaccine and the fundamental need for us to be social with each other, in-person schooling is something that absolutely needs to return as soon as possible, for as many of our students as possible.