Students and Faculty Learn to Balance New COVID Social Life

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Jack Schwartz

Due to COVID, everyone’s social lives have changed. Both teachers and students have had to go about their lives outside of school under radically different conditions. Protocols at school are tight to allow people to feel safe while on campus and to protect family and friends at home. Moreover, these protocols lessen the worry that outside activities will cause problems at school. Eighth-grader Alexander Carr shares experiences with distancing inside and outside of school. At school, he says, “the protocols have been enforced pretty well, with the teachers whacking everyone with the noodles [to keep distanced].” Carr also participates on a baseball team that is not associated with Westminster. “The distancing has been enforced pretty well, not as good as Westminster, and occasionally there are slip-ups. Like we will dap each other up and forget about social distancing.” 

Given that student and faculty members have lives outside of school, the President of The Westminster Schools, Keith Evans, sent home an email to all Westminster families containing a COVID 19 family pledge. One provision states that the family will pledge to “Encourage our student(s) to practice social distancing and practice social distancing as a family whenever feasible.” In communications to the Westminster community, Evans has expressed this idea on multiple occasions. Evans asks, “Please resolve to double down on all of the practices and protocols that we know work to keep our community healthy. This commitment will be especially important through the upcoming holidays and the travel and gatherings that these breaks might include.” 

For the first couple of months in the pandemic, most of the country was shut down. During the initial COVID lockdown, most people were not able to see their friends. Now with the return to school, it seems like parents have given in and are allowing their kids to hang out. Obviously, different parents will have different rules of what their children will be allowed to do. “It really depends on who you are talking about,” Carr added. “My parents have made it pretty clear that I am not allowed to go into people’s houses.” On the other hand, some families have deemed it okay to enter each other’s houses. Eighth-grader Brody Persons has been allowed to see his friends again, but not all of them. “Just a handful, some of my closest friends. I can’t really hang out with just random people.” Different families have different restrictions on who can enter their home. “Only if my parents allow it. I’m not really sure of their full restrictions,” Persons added.

Distancing inside of school is equally as important as it is when outside of school. Middle School History teacher Scott Snyder appreciates the caution so far. “As somebody that is one of the demographics of being older and having diabetes, I definitely want to make sure that we are being safe. From my experience, the classroom has been pretty good. It seems hard in the beginning, but on the same hand it seems like it’s worked,” said Snyder.

 Like many other teachers, Snyder also coaches sports here at Westminster and on a club team. According to Coach Snyder, the difference between sports at Westminster and club sports is  “wearing a mask . . . You go to some of the club events and nobody is wearing anything.”

Snyder worries that it is hard to stay vigilant. “The biggest thing that concerns me is how we approach this mentally, and I do think that the school is trying to be aware of that. Because there is fatigue, it’s hard. It’s hard to do this all day long. It’s hard to have this schedule change.” 

Part of the protocols for Westminster will be developing a COVID testing schedule and deciding which kind of testing would be the best for results. “A way that saliva testing has helped is that we could test younger students without their parents present,” said Middle School Principal, Danette Morton, after the first round of saliva tests. If students and teachers can find a balance between safe socializing outside of school and maintaining protocol in school, then we will all benefit.