Back to school: The return, responsibility and respect of students

The Board of Education held a meeting March 1, 2021. Tensions ran high as parents, students and teachers awaited the Board’s verdict. While everyone waited with baited breath, the Board announced its decision: secondary students would return to school four days a week following Spring Break. Since then, Edmond Public Schools (EPS) has experienced various changes and challenges.

Prior to the Board Meeting

Prior to the board meeting on March 1, the Board had many long conversations about teacher and student safety amidst the return to school during a global pandemic. The Board decided on a hybrid (A/B) schedule to limit the number of students in the building at one time. This schedule allowed for social distancing guidelines to be met and for students to eat lunch as safely as possible. There was also a virtual option for students who were not comfortable coming to school. Teachers would come to school five days a week to be available for all students. The Board talked about returning to school full time during the first semester; however, Edmond remained hybrid until Spring Break.

March 1 Board Meeting

When EPS parents raised concerns regarding the efficacy of the hybrid schedule, the Board of Education scheduled a board meeting to consider the possibility of a four-day return to school.  The resulting board meeting did not run smoothly. One issue was the time limit allotted to each speaker. This time limit was not followed by every one who spoke. For instance, one speaker refused to sit down after his time was up. Another issue was the lack of student involvement. The meeting was not about the students but rather about the parents and how they felt about their children. No one considered the concerns of immunocompromised students and families or the struggles of working students.

After the Board Meeting: the Return to Four Days 

With the board’s eventual decision on March 1 to dismiss the hybrid schedule and return four days a week came many complications and the dismissal of basic safety precautions. As thousands of students flood the school building, the hallways are congested with students. The implementation of designated hallway directions attempts to limit this congestion, but the volume of students has mitigated the effects of this protocol. Another prominent issue is lunchtime. Having twice the number of students creates problems with seating arrangements, especially in the freshman and main cafeterias in which students have surpassed the capacity for social distancing. To combat this matter, there are an additional 28 tables, each with four seats, available in the auditorium foyer, small gym and back hall. Another change to combat this matter is the Santa Fe administration’s decision to allow juniors to go out for lunch. By enabling another population of students to leave campus during lunchtime, the administration hopes to reduce overcrowding inside the building.

Changes Following the Four-Day Plan

On top of all these changes, the administration began enforcing other policies that have gone unregulated this year. The district’s ID and cell phone policies have been reintroduced to classrooms. This additional pressure on staff to enforce these policies has affected the teacher/student relationship. Tensions continue to rise as some teachers enforce policies while others do not. Not to mention, students are struggling already to adjust to the new four-day learning plan.

Staff and administration are also adjusting to the four-day plan. Teachers must alter their lesson plans to adapt to in-person instruction. In some classes, Monday-Friday schedules replace the previous “Week at a Glance” pages on Canvas, the EPS site for online resources. The site Infinite Campus underwent some changes as well. To remove the hybrid format from the gradebook and attendance, EPS administration had to remove all students from Infinite Campus and then add every student back with the four-day format. 

Struggles with Procedures

Before the implementation of the four-day format, Santa Fe held the annual “Double Wolf Dare Week” (DWDW) fundraising week to raise money for The Dragonfly Home, a local charity. Although staff and administrators attempted to implement precautions for a safe week, many students neglected to wear their masks properly. DWDW relies on student leaders and upperclassmen to provide a positive example for others. However, a handful of these leaders disregarded safety guidelines on school grounds and encouraged others to do the same. This is a prime example of the student body’s struggle to follow health and safety protocols. 

Now that we are in school four days a week, we need to recognize rules and procedures within the school building. As the student body, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable. Putting personal beliefs and differences aside, students need to maintain responsibility in school as they would in any workplace, business or real-world situation. The pandemic is not going away soon and neither should our sense of responsibility in keeping everyone safe.