Safe Schooling: Pinewood Leading with Action By emma hollenbeck

Photo by Kyle Riches

When will our world ever go back normal? That is the question all of America is asking themselves in this period of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to get our country back up and running as usual, all schools and businesses should be taking similar approaches to Pinewood School in carefully monitoring the global situation and adopting a hybrid program.

Pinewood had taken the route of waiting for months to track the progress of the virus without attempts at opening up for fear that it would be too dangerous. They have spent the past few months carefully planning a path of action and training teachers on how to manage teaching strategies in the new environments. The administration has implemented ways to monitor and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 like bi-weekly testing, temperature monitor bands, and outdoor tent classrooms. The student body will also be split in two, and each half will be spending half the week on campus and half the week at home. However, other schools all over the country are struggling with opening up too soon and spreading the virus; versus keeping students at home and having them suffer. There is much fear surrounding the opening of schools, especially when considering the failure of recent school reopenings across the country.

According to an analysis by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association, COVID-19 cases amongst children have gone up by 90% within the past four weeks. Since schools have begun to reopen, not only have cases among children gone up, but also new clusters and hotspots are developing in states like Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. A large part of this is due to the fact that it is difficult for schools to manage all these kids, and the discipline of social distancing and mask-wearing is not being adequately implemented.

A high school in Dallas, Georgia grabbed the attention of the nation when a student posted a picture of packed school hallways with barely any students wearing masks. It was quickly closed for a deep cleaning. All students and teachers were then sent home, with a handful later being diagnosed with COVID-19. The school’s students and teachers voiced how unsafe it was, with student Hannah Watters saying, “We could have just delayed opening like many other schools, They kind of sent us to school and used us as guinea pigs to see what would happen later on." This and many other school situations across the country have shown us how cautious we must be with this pandemic and that Pinewood’s plan to slowly reopen is the only appropriate option to follow through with. Some schools have not even attempted to try to open up schools soon as they simply do not have the means and resources to create a plan like Pinewood’s.

However, during this difficult time, many students across the country have been suffering with their mental health. A summer 2020 study conducted by YoungMinds on young people with a history of mental health issues showed that 80% of respondents agreed that their mental health had declined over the coronavirus pandemic.

School situations across the country have shown us how cautious we must be with this pandemic and that Pinewood’s plan to slowly reopen is the only appropriate option to follow through with.

Students' grades are also suffering during this remote learning time, with many losing a significant amount of learning and falling behind. According to a study done at Brown University, students may return to school this semester while only having made around 67% of gains in reading compared to a typical school year. Math improvement is projected to be even worse at only approximately 37-50% of the gains compared to a typical year. Without a strong support system provided by the school or the prospects of an upcoming reopening, children all over the country are suffering from depression and anxiety, with failing grades. Fortunately, Pinewood has provided a strong plan, ranging from check-in surveys to Zoom class calls and meetings, all in an effort to create a solid plan for the future of our school.

Ultimately, Pinewood’s plan of action is the most beneficial for students’ learning and their mental health, while still ensuring the safety and well-being of the Pinewood community.