After several months of school board meetings and surveys, the Broward County Public School Board has ultimately decided that they would be opening schools again for on-campus learning. However, with COVID-19 still being a concern, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School opened with the necessary precautions in place to ensure the safety of both students and staff.
The school board decision to open school campuses did not occur without careful planning and consideration. The board waited until COVID-19 cases in the county were below 5% for at least two weeks and on a steady decline to make sure that the schools were ready and had everything that they needed to ensure a safe return. As my parents and I listened to the many school board meetings, I was assured of my safety at school and the decision to go back to school became more and more appealing.
The MSD administration is doing everything they can for the safety of the staff and students by making sure that these guidelines are being strictly enforced and followed. I have felt comfortable being on campus this past week. There are arrows on the ground telling students which way to walk, as well as directional stairs, and masks are required at all times. Teachers are even leaving wipes at the front of their classrooms for students to grab when they walk in, so we can wipe down our desks and chairs before we sit. Near the wipes, they have hand sanitizer available for anyone to use when needed.
The main reason why I went back to school was for the classroom environment. Personally, while at home, I would tend to get distracted by my friends texting me, my family or even just little things around my room. Being in the classroom, I have fewer distractions and a better sense of what is going on during lessons. I also tend to feel more motivated to do work while at school because I do not have the option to just log off the meeting and not do work.
During my time doing online school at home, I felt myself missing social interaction and being able to talk about things going on at school. Mentally, I started feeling overwhelmed at times and other times I felt drained of motivation. According to edsource.org, school counselors and psychologists have been helping students virtually. They said that there were an additional 32% of students that said they have had more issues with mental health since school moved online.
I also went back, not only for the social interactions, but because I wanted to be able to experience my first real day of high school. As a freshman at MSD, I wanted to embrace that excitement and experience, that jittery feeling of starting at a new school and trying to figure out my way around the huge campus. I did not want to miss out on what it would be like to be a freshman in high school. Yes, I still have to sit on my computer and do all of my work virtually, but I get to meet all my teachers face-to-face, get to know them in person and make friends. It was kind of hard at first trying to talk to new people, but I did end up meeting other students that I had multiple classes with.
At lunch, we can either sit at a desk in the cafeteria (socially distanced of course) or in the courtyard at a picnic table. The picnic table benches have X’s on opposite ends, telling you where to sit. The benches around campus also have X’s and physical distancing signs on them telling you where you can and cannot sit. So it is not like you are eating lunch completely alone, you are still able to be socially distanced and sit with a friend.
While at lunch, you are able to take off your mask, but only while actively eating or drinking something. If you are roaming around, buying lunch, throwing away trash or using the bathroom, it is required that you put your mask back on. In the past, lunch has been a time of social interaction and hanging out with friends; while this can still happen safely, administrators are taking their jobs seriously and making sure students are following all of CDC guidelines and school policies.
I have seen first-hand just how active the school is in making sure we stay safe while learning. By following the rules and guidelines that the school board has put in place, and also taking some responsibility for our own safety, the risk of going to school is greatly minimized.
This story was originally published in the October 2020 Eagle Eye print edition.