Back to School: Preemptive Measures Being Taken to Keep Students Healthy

Gracie Hurst, Staff Writer

Lots of things are different this year at Wylie High School. Though many students are returning to the same halls and teachers they have known, the world they live in is not the same. COVID-19 struck America hard, and we were not ready for it. But now, thanks to our principals and administrators, Wylie High School is ready to fight for education and prepared to ward off this global pandemic.

When coronavirus arrived in Abilene in March, school shut down and was empty for a long while. Students returning to Wylie High this fall will notice changes that the administration has installed to keep them safe, starting with a new addition to the dress code. All students must now wear a face covering -whether a mask or face shield- at all times. These will help to lessen the spread of the virus from student to student.

Many other preemptive measures are being put into place to help the students stay socially distant (6 feet apart) as much as possible. When entering the school building, freshmen and sophomores enter the main doors and go to the cafeteria, juniors enter into the small gym, with seniors in the main gym. “We’ve asked students that when coming to school in the mornings, if possible, to not come until just before it’s time to go to class,” said Wylie High School Principal Smith in a recent interview.

Another change made is in the cafeteria. Every lunch table can seat four people with X’s marking off the two spaces between each person. Our team of principals and teachers help to ensure the students are following the rule. “We’ve had some trouble with this,” said Principal Smith. “Kids are social, just like us. They want to get together with their friends. We reevaluated that [X’s on the seats] and it wasn’t working as well as we wanted it to, and so we started taking some of the seats off.”  Now with only four places to sit per table, this rule is broken less often. The principals also enforce a socially distant lunch line, allowing only a small number of people to get food at the same time and ensuring those waiting in line are staying socially distant from one another. Additionally, our amazing cafeteria staff hands all uncovered food to students with gloved hands so that the students don’t contaminate food by accidentally touching it while reaching for the lunch or snack that they want.

Students socially distancing while eating lunch

While staying socially distant is a major factor in staying safe from COVID-19, sanitizing and keeping clean are just as important. Each teacher has a spray bottle full of hand sanitizer to spray each of the students’ hands as they enter the classroom. There are also hand sanitizing stations throughout the hallways, in the cafeteria, and just as you enter the school. Hand sanitizing between class kills germs and helps to keep students safe from exposure.

However, hands are not the only things being sanitized. After each lunch, every table is sanitized thoroughly. Supplies that students share are sanitized after each class or as they are used. Desks are sanitized once every day, generally after school, with a special sealant. This sealant lasts 24 hours and keeps the desks sanitized for that time period. The only problem with this new desk sanitation system is that the sealant will be contaminated if food is dropped on it. Therefore, there is a strict policy that doesn’t allow eating in classrooms.

Though all these protections have been installed, not all students have come back to school. These students are online everyday, learning the same as the in-school students, but they stay safe and help keep compromised family members safe as well. These online classes are another precaution taken by our teaching staff to keep those compromised students and families safe. Online classes have also helped to decrease class sizes. Smaller amounts of students each class can be social distanced easier, so in-school students are still seeing the good effects of online classes.

One problem administration is facing is how to social distance on the buses. When you calculate the number of students who need to ride the bus to school, it would be impossible to place them all six feet apart on a bus and get them to school on time. Principal Smith stated, “We ask them to wear masks and sit together with their family members. The drivers are wearing masks and face shields. We ask parents to not put their child on the bus unless you really have to. If you can bring your child rather than put them on the bus, it is a much safer option, but some parents don’t have that option.”

As Principal Smith said, the administration wants “everyone to be aware and be educated and be cooperative” to help ensure the safety of all students and teachers. Wylie High School is as prepared as any school can be for this school year during a pandemic. The preemptive measures our administration is taking to keep us safe and healthy are allowing us to have a successful school year that we will always remember.