Administration’s safety protocols are not enough

Many+students+crowd+stairwell+A+which+demonstrates+how+the+overcrowding+within+WS+is+very+unsafe+for+students.

Photo courtesy of Anisha Iqbal

Many students crowd stairwell A which demonstrates how the overcrowding within WS is very unsafe for students.

WS has not established enough safety protocols to keep the students safe from COVID-19. Compared to hybrid learning, the rules and restrictions have , which is odd considering the number of students has greatly increased since the building opened.

The CDC recommends that students maintain a social distance of at least three feet and asks that schools separate the desks in classrooms and enforce separation in the hallways. Fairfax County has not made this a requirement for coming back to in-person learning and WS has not required teachers to do so either. The school’s current safety restrictions consist of mandatory mask wearing, sanitization of desks, and teacher vaccinations. These protocols are not enough to ensure the safety of students and staff. 

FCPS requires all staff to be vaccinated or regularly tested, and only requires students who participate in winter and spring sports to be vaccinated. They recommend that students be vaccinated, but the schools have no record as to who is and isn’t vaccinated. Knowing this would give the school a better idea of how many students are at a greater risk. FCPS also recommends that students who are not vaccinated wear their masks outside, but vaccinated students are not required to do so. This increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 at outdoor events such as football games. 

Football games are just as cramped as they were before the pandemic, with most students being maskless. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder next to one another is not safe whatsoever. Though the risk of transmission is greatly decreased while students are outdoors, that does not negate the hazards. 

Due to the number of students in the building, intersections and stairwells are overflowing with students during passing periods. Students are tightly packed together and there have been no administrative efforts to regulate or clear the halls. There were dividers in place during hybrid learning to make it easy for students to go from class to class which have been removed this year. Now students are walking on the wrong side of the hallways creating additional traffic. 

The cafeteria also poses a substantial risk since students are all maskless and sitting in close proximity to one another. At the very least, most people choose to sit next to friends, knowing who they are exposing themselves to. The main issue is that the cafeteria is extremely crowded. This means students could be exposed to many different people daily with no real options of contact tracing if they were to get sick. The lunch tables are just as far apart as they were before the pandemic and there appears to be no staff enforcing any safety measures. 

Students do have the option to sit and eat outside, where tables are widely spaced apart with better airflow. Unfortunately, there are very few tables available and some students end up sitting on the grass or pavement. Poor weather can also bring more students into the building, making the outdoor seating useless for half of the year. 

In classrooms, everyone has assigned seats to help with contact tracing, which is near impossible in the crowded, maskless lunchrooms and football games. Additional safety guidelines would make the entire contact tracing process run smoothly and efficiently. 

In comparison to hybrid learning, the restrictions have greatly decreased. There are no assigned seats at lunches, and desks do not have to be six feet apart anymore. Understandably, some of these guidelines cannot be met due to the number of students in the school, but WS still has a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment which it has failed to meet.