Should schools remain through the winter months?

Kethan Kalra ’24

Every day, COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the United States and kill thousands. During seven months of lockdown, 8.98  million cases were reported in our country, leaving 228 thousand Americans dead (as of 10/29/20). Among these fatalities are 8,800 Pennsylvanians, 895 of which come from Montgomery County. Thus, the question arises, “Should Haverford remain open in the winter months?” 

     Ultimately, it comes down how acceptable the risk is, because while online learning is difficult, contracting COVID-19 is far worse. Third Former Brady Stalkamp expressed concerns about remaining open as he thinks the risk outweighs the gain. When Fourth Former Ethan Lee and Third Former Noah Anderson were posed with the question, both stated the situation should be handled on a day-by-day basis and cases should be monitored rigorously. 

     Unfortunately, the school may be on the brink of shutting down with an estimated 4% positivity rate in Montgomery County. At the state we are in now, it seems like a foolish idea to remain open and put faculty and students at risk as schools are required to close at just a 5% positivity rate. In the hypothetical scenario that we make it to winter, it would be extremely wise to take examples from countries that have already undergone harsh temperatures. For instance Germany has mandated leaving windows open to increase ventilation, chilling students to the bone amidst below freezing temperatures. Schools are left to decide if pneumonia is worse than contracting COVID-19. If we were to remain open, ventilation would play a key factor, as it allowed air to circulate simulating the outdoors. In many Nordic countries, classes have been moved entirely outside.

     A study originating from South Korea revealed that kids under age ten contracted and transmitted the virus at a much lower rate than teenagers and adults. The reason for this is currently unknown, but theories suggest that children’s smaller lungs play a role. These findings pose yet another question: would it be fair for younger children to attend in person while we attend online? Some may find it unfair that some students have the ability to remain in person but we do not. Personally, I find these claims to be valid, but I also think a kindergartener will have a much more difficult time learning online than we would. Due to both medical reasons and their lower aptitude for learning virtually, I believe grades K-5 should be able to attend school regardless of seasonal changes. 

With Haverford on the threshold of closing, another bump in cases could potentially put an end to our in-person learning.

     With Haverford on the threshold of closing, another bump in cases could potentially put an end to our in-person learning. But the risk does not come in closing down, it comes in reopening. The CDC requires a positivity rate of <3% which would be incredibly difficult to manage. With Thanksgiving break on the horizon, many students will likely travel or visit family, putting yet another risk on the table. Personally, the best way to combat this influx would be to remain online for two weeks before returning, testing each student before entering the building. 

     In the end, this topic is a question that no one can solve until after the damage is done. Administrators will make the executive decision after carefully weighing pros and cons. The easiest way to do so is by determining if the reward is greater than the risk, and if that aforementioned risk is at an acceptable level.