Do not force Hollidaysburg students to go back full face-to-face

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At the last board meeting, the Hollidaysburg school board voted for students to go back to school full face-to-face, five days a week. This is a dangerous measure that will jeopardize the safety of students and the community. For the week ending January 8th, Blair County was classified in the "substantial" transmission level, the highest of three levels. The PA Department of Health recommends that counties in the substantial level adopt a fully remote learning model.

Social distancing will not be possible if the entire student body is in school at the same time. This is especially true in the cafeteria, where students will have to take their masks off to eat. There is simply not enough room for everyone to be spread six feet apart. Even during the hybrid model, students were not always six feet apart in classes. It would be impossible for students to be properly distanced in a full in-person model.

The lack of social distancing, in addition to putting students and staff at risk, would also cause a drastic increase in the amount of quarantined students. A single student testing positive could easily cause dozens of students to be quarantined. If the school district ends remote instruction, quarantined students will not be able to attend class for two weeks. This would drastically and negatively impact educational outcomes.

Additionally, current school policy allows students and teachers to wear face shields instead of masks. This is against CDC guidelines, which state that "CDC does not recommend using face shields or goggles as a substitute for masks." Face shields do not provide an adequate level of protection and unnecessarily put students and staff at risk.

At the school board meeting Wednesday, every physician who called in during public comment opposed full face-to-face. We should trust the advice of our medical professionals. Students should not be asked to put the health of ourselves and our loved ones at risk just to get an education. We, as students of the Hollidaysburg Area School District, refuse to go back in person and ask that the school board reconsider their decision.