Change the PHS lunch schedule to keep students safe
Change the PHS lunch schedule to keep students safe
On December 20, 2021, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was detected in most states and territories. As we know, this variant is rapidly spreading, greatly increasing the number of COVID-19 cases. The government does not know enough about this virus for people to take it lightly. As we have noticed so far, even though the Omicron virus does not cause severe illness for vaccinated people, we should be making sure everyone is as safe as possible.
In order to protect ourselves and the people around us we should all be following the CDC guidelines to fight this highly contagious variant. The government highly recommends everyone who has the ability to get vaccinated and boosted to do so. “COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death” (cdc.gov). The “CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask … , regardless of vaccination status” (cdc.gov). Experts also “recommend the better-quality masks, [KN95, N95, and the Korean equivalent KN94 masks], rather than cloth coverings” (Washington Post). Recently, the CDC has explained that cloth masks might not protect against Omicron and that if possible people should find better quality masks such as KN95, N95, and KN94. The CDC also recommends testing, as we know people can have COVID but not show any symptoms.
Knowing how contagious the Omicron virus is, it seems irresponsible to have students eating in the school building. Many students have already raised their concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but the Princeton High School administration fails to listen to students' opinions about safety precautions, and schedule changes that go along with these issues. In the past year we have had multiple schedule changes due to COVID, although students understand that our administration is trying their best, it is time to listen to the student’s voices. Many of us have raised our concerns about the current three tier lunch schedule. Students are worried about their health, and let’s not forget that some of the students or their family members suffer from chronic illness which puts them at higher risk.
We feel that by being restrained to a smaller part of the school, we are exposing ourselves more to the highly contagious Omicron variant creating a superspreader. Even though having approximately 500 students eating at the same time is safer than the regular lunch, which also creates a superspreader, it is not the solution! Most of the students prefer eating in the hallways to be close to their friends, which creates more students being close to each other but in smaller places. Eating in the PAC or cafeteria is a safer option but it is not safe enough! Here is what students have to say about the three tier lunch schedule:
“I feel like the classes are somehow twice as long as they used to be. On the days where I have lunch there I often have to skip eating because either there is no food left, or there is no food I can eat due to dietary restrictions/preferences.” - Max Wu (class of 23)
“The new lunch schedule makes it so that not only do we not get to eat lunch with our friends, but also does not fix the problem of people eating too close together.”
- Justin Yang (class of 22)
“This lunch is very inefficient and really doesn’t do a good job of accounting for student safety and wellness, first off some lunches don’t have food left due to the previous lunches, secondly you still have a very concentrated population of students you’ve just stuffed them into even tighter spaces. This lunch also just takes away from the fact that lunch is a time for students to have time to relax and go to clubs which they can't do anymore because of the schedule.” - Myrrah Shapoo (class of 23)
“I eat just as physically close to friends now, if not closer. I used to spend almost every lunch safe at a club, but now there is no time for clubs to meet, or to meet with teachers. I end up spending much more time sitting and eating near people, and it is much less enjoyable and productive than before.” - Anonymous student (class of 23)
“It is way harder to track your close contacts and know who to reach out to if you're tested positive. For example: I have a small friend group I sit with at lunch and one of them tested positive before break and knew exactly who to reach out to. Now we're just cramped up together with random people. We have proportionally less space to take up, and we are way closer together (i.e. my photo (the faces of students were hidden to respect their privacy), which I got yelled at for taking, meaning that the teacher was very much aware that what was happening was wrong).
It introduces new obstacles and a lot of social anxiety to the students. Having to figure out who to sit with or realizing that you have no friends in your lunch period can be super stressful and embarrassing. Students who are dependent on school lunches are prone to having to go through the rest of the day hungry which affects their academic ability in classes after lunch.
I think we should go back to the schedule we had during hybrid last year. Not only did we not have to deal with the stress that now accompanies lunch, school was way safer covid-wise and classes were shorter. They were still long, but way more manageable. We seem to be forgetting the fact that we have to sit through 77 min classes every single day. Coming from someone with ADHD, it's super hard and makes school such a bad experience” - Anonymous (class of 23)
Of course the solutions to these issues are to be discussed, but the bottom line is that students do not feel safe eating inside the building, and do not want the schedules to keep changing every month. There should be no eating going on in the building. Being more strict with mask rules and no eating/drinking inside would be much safer. Strongly encouraging staff and students to wear masks recommended by experts such as N95, KN95, and KF94 masks. If possible, supply them at the PAC entrance, the main entrance, and the nurses office. Supplying those masks would also protect students from their peers who refuse to wear their masks properly.
Being a student myself I have noticed many students with their masks off, or under their noses. Although this might not be the most desirable solution, it is safer than the one we have right now. This would allow us to hopefully stay in person for teaching, while slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
Here is a guide to finding the safest masks to protect yourself and everyone around you: