As Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, to start off the new year at Andover, we didn’t get a creamy milk chocolate coated ball with a soft coconut center. No, there was no dark chocolate truffle with salted caramel glaze. Instead, we got online school, missing Covid-19 test results, and best of all, a return to campus that challenged our better judgment in regards to the pandemic.
After returning from break to Andover, students began the term remotely from January 4 to January 9; some students attended classes from home––day students, students unable to return to campus, and those who tested positive for Covid-19––while others attended classes in their dorm rooms. Throughout the week, students were required to submit P.C.R. tests. On January 9, most students who were unable to be on campus for the first week came to campus and submitted another Covid-19 test. Positive students had to leave campus to either go home or stay at the DoubleTree Hotel in Andover. These measures, according to the administration, warranted a return to campus. However, this return was hasty and improper given the circumstances. Andover should have remained remote for an additional week to ensure the safety and education of its students.
Though fully-remote learning is admittedly not ideal, hybrid classes are even more problematic and do not provide an equal education for every student involved. According to an email from Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director at Sykes Wellness Center, a total of 2.5 percent of students tested positive for Covid-19 on January 9. Considering the student population is 1,150, this means that about 29 students tested positive for Covid-19, which still doesn’t include the numerous students already in quarantine, late campus arrivals, or those who were unable to travel back to campus. Thus, many students have had to take online classes. Even though I’m in-person this week, the negative effects run rampant and affect more than just those missing class. Whether it be teachers making last-minute changes to their syllabi, technical difficulties, or the complexity of working with students both in and outside of class, my academics this week have been impaired. Overall, hybrid schooling proves detrimental to the learning process of all students involved, as well as teachers who have to teach both in-person and remotely simultaneously.
In addition to the academic difficulties the Covid-19 return plan caused, the administration’s decision for students to return to campus is not the safest for protection against Covid-19. On January 12, Dr. Amy Patel, released an email explaining that since the start of winter break, 202 students tested positive for Covid-19. 130 were off campus tests. 72 were on campus positive tests in the past two weeks, although some of these were repeat tests. Meanwhile, weeks ago, on December 8, when Andover was in the yellow zone, there were four positive Covid-19 tests on campus in a span of seven days. This is an incredibly steep increase in positive Covid-19 testing, especially when compared to this fall. Even outside of the Andover community, there was a surge in positive Covid-19 cases. On December 29, there were a total of 480,000 positive Covid-19 tests in the U.S., 70 percent increase in cases in just one week. With such a large spike in cases, how could Andover reasonably return to campus so quickly? We don’t mask in Commons while eating, providing for the dangerous possibility of Covid-19 transmission, which has gotten more contagious with the Omicron variant. In addition, according to Dr. Patel, P.C.R. test results were delayed, and campus has just barely received the testing results from our recent P.C.R. tests. If Andover did not have this data, why did we safely return to in-person classes?
We’re here now on campus and there isn’t much else we can do. Although Andover’s decision on campus return was dangerous and faulty, we cannot undo the past or reform the system, and we are left to do the best we can to prevent Covid-19 from spreading. As a community, it is of utmost importance that we mask at all times indoors, and be safe while eating in Paresky Commons. We must wear our masks correctly, and must wear the correct types of masks to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. We must continue testing, get vaccinated and boosted, and of course, follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, especially when positive for Covid-19. This may not be perfect, but as a community we must stick together with what we’ve got, with the box of chocolates we were given.
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