Editorial: Should schools reopen in the fall?

Lyle Griggs

Back in March, a time that feels incredibly distant, I was convinced that schools would all stay open, especially small schools like Seabury. In the face of the pandemic, we would persevere and maybe sanitize some stuff along the way. As the situation progressed, however, I began to wonder if schools would open at all during the month of April. Now, I fathom something much more unfathomable: will Seabury even open in the fall? 

I will not make any predictions or release any secret information in this editorial. I have no predictions, know no secret information and would rather not make Dr. Schawang mad. Instead, I will suggest a hypothetical situation: if the pandemic is still a major threat come August, should we resume non-virtual, actual learning?

While our collective attempted conversion to introversion has been noble and somewhat effective, scientists believe (the beloved Fauci included) that the curve may flatten only temporarily and that COVID-19 may roar back in the fall. If that happens, the same conditions that forced schools to close in March may return. It would be difficult for authorities to justify keeping schools open given the precedent set by the current cancellation of in-person classes. Without widespread, rapid and universally accessible testing or treatment, a return to virtual learning is a very real possibility and one that some school districts are already considering. 

Nevertheless, Seabury should only revert to distance learning if absolutely necessary or, obviously, if compelled to do so legally. As this past month has shown me, there is no substitute for a brick-and-mortar school. I feel less productive, less engaged, and less intelligent than ever, and these constant Zoom calls, both for classes and extracurricular meetings, are going to kill my eyesight. If I have to take Mr. Pulsinelli’s class through Zoom, fill out college applications and juggle virtual extracurriculars this fall without structure or routine, I will likely die or melt or something. More importantly, I worry that long-term virtual learning will change Seabury’s culture for good. Zoom all-school meetings are something, but they only attempt to sew together a Frankenstein of a community. More and more, I view myself as a student, not a Seabury student, and that scares me.

In short, a return to virtual school in the fall is not something that should be taken lightly. No doubt, significant changes will have to be made to the way that classes are taught, meetings are held and sports are played when we return in August. Even if we have to vacuum seal the students and construct glass shields around the teachers, we should open this fall. I cannot take this any longer.