By Ben Slomich
Garnet Valley opened up schools full time on March 1st, announcing they will begin bringing back students four days a week in a phased reopening plan they outlined in an email and document a few weeks ago.
The district will be offering two different formats for students: face to face and online. If they choose the former, you will go four days a week like normal, with masks and social distancing required. The latter will stay the same for the most part, which means attending class on Zoom and completing work assigned by teachers. One big difference that was noted in the Garnet Valley School District reopening plan document is that, “Caregivers will likely need to provide additional support to keep learners on track since teacher attention will be divided between a larger number of in person students and a smaller number of virtual students.”
“I’m just gonna try and continue with the same approach; like, I’m not changing anything,” said Mr. Martin, a math teacher at Garnet Valley, “if students choose to stay virtual vs. face to face, I don’t think the way I’m presenting the lessons is gonna change,”
Garnet Valley put many protocols in place so they can execute this plan. Five of the biggest things they said are crucial to reopening the schools are, masking, distancing, assurance testing, cleaning and hygiene, and screening. “The cleaning of the building I think is imperative,” added Mr. Martin.
Here is the timeline of how the phased reopening plan will work: “March 1st, return to in person learning for special education students in cohort D. March 8th, return to in person learning for all students in grades 1-2. March 15th, return to in person learning for all students in grades 3 to 5. Late March/ early April, return to in person learning for all secondary students in grades 6-12.”
Recent studies have shown that COVID transmits at very low rates in schools, but is the reason for that because very few students are showing up to school?
“I think that’s definitely true for the numbers here at the high school,” said Mr. Martin, “There might be like 100 kids max on a day to day basis, which is like 1/16th of the school. I think a lot of those studies are elementary based, and I think elementary schools can do it. But to say the difference between a 17 year old and 18 year old compared to a 40 year old, I can’t see how the virus knows the difference. You’re an 18 year old male or female, you’re an adult. At the high school there should be a little bit more concern about how many people they are letting in the building.”
When you look at the numbers you see that COVID cases are going down and vaccines administered are going up in the U.S. This is also true in Delco.
“I believe that we will be here full time,” stated Mr. Brangiel, a Social Studies teacher at GVHS. “I think there is a big possibility we will still be wearing masks. The only thing that I’ve seen and the experts that I’ve been listening to, the thing with masks is they will go away next January, like after the holidays. That’s what I think, I mean I could be wrong but masks don’t really bother me that much.”
Dr. Bertrando said as part of the protocols, desks in classrooms will be placed in a way that students are at least 3 feet away from each other when sitting down, but preferably 6 feet.
“They’ve closed all the lockers, and the lockers are the place where kids tend to congregate,” Mr. Brangiel said, “Kids are in the hall at the same time, but congregating to me means, standing, hanging out and talking to each other. So from what I understand, the number one way in which the virus is transmitted, is by people in close proximity without masks talking to each other. That’s why restaurants and bars are like the biggest places where the virus spreads. I think that walking through the halls getting from class to class, that doesn’t bother me as much as hanging out at a locker.”