Is the class half empty or half full?

Students mixed on increased capacity as new semester begins

During+the+first+week+of+50%25+in-person+instruction%2C+97.53%25+of+students+have+participated+in+the+saliva+screener%2C+while+81.39%25+of+staff+have+participated.+Of+the+total+screenings%2C+two+had+a+presumptive+positive+sample

NT Website

During the first week of 50% in-person instruction, 97.53% of students have participated in the saliva screener, while 81.39% of staff have participated. Of the total screenings, two had a presumptive positive sample

Starting second semester, New Trier has moved to the 50% Hybrid Model, along with making the saliva screener mandatory for all students participating in on-campus hybrid instruction, and extracurriculars.

Not all students are comfortable with the increase from 25% to 50%.

According to the school’s website, to keep students and staff safe, classrooms and shared spaces will be cleaned and disinfected daily. Commonly touched items, such as door handles, handrails, sink handles, commons tables and surfaces, and elevator buttons will be cleaned multiple times throughout the day. Items that must be shared such as art supplies, instructional materials, printers, and copy machines will be cleaned after each use.

I hope that New Trier will continue to do everything they can to get the kids in class and participate in activities as much as possible. I think this has already started to happen with the 50% plan and the return of contact days for sports”

— Sarah Curry

“I do not see myself going back remote this school year. I did it for a quarter, but I ​yearned​ to be in school. I feel clouded and sometimes distraught at the ways I am being pulled in a place that has always been safe and brought me solace. I feel stress permeate the air. I need a different environment to do school and attending New Trier is the best option for me,” said junior Naya Rhee. 

For junior Will Newlands and senior Rachel Truong, the 50% plan happened faster than they would have liked. 

“I feel that the 50% plan is a tad too fast. Vaccines are mostly being provided to the front-line workers at this time, which means that students still have the possibility of being exposed to the virus without protection, if in a high trafficked, confined area,” said Truong. 

Truong thinks students are not well equipped for half of the student body to be in person at this time. She said right now is not the time to carry out the 50% plan because it would bring New Trier one step closer to closing their facilities again. 

“I think it happened a little early which made it hard for people that can only go in when it’s at 25% capacity. It does give people the choice but I think it’s a little unfair for the people that really want to go in but don’t feel comfortable at 50%,” said Newlands. 

On the New Trier saliva screening page, it is said there is no guarantee that all individuals on campus will be screened or that there will be no instances of COVID-19 on campus. 

“There is comfort in the saliva tests, but I am still upset with people’s choices because COVID has tested us all, thrown us in hot water. Some of us burned while others made their way out, but it is not over,” said Rhee. 

Rhee was an early skeptic of the s 50% idea, and was against the plan in the beginning. Now after experiencing it by going back to school, she believes it is okay. 

“In my opinion, Illinois has done a pretty good job monitoring the virus and the case count. It has been proven that sports and restaurants were places of lower transmission, but events like large family gatherings, holidays, parties, have proven to be Illinois’ achilles heel,” said Rhee.  

Junior Scott Hopkins has been participating in the hybrid plan since the beginning of the school year. He believes the school is doing a good job with all the testing and precautions. 

“I actually really like the 50% plan although I think they could’ve done it earlier. Starting this process at the start of second semester is fine. Having two days in person and two days remote is kind of perfect. I like that schedule a lot,” said Hopkins. 

Hopkins understands the check-ins are for contact tracing, however he finds it frustrating to constantly be in specific places. He plans on going to school every week unless he feels sick. Like Hopkins, junior Heather Hoeper thinks the 50% hybrid plan could’ve been started earlier. 

“I strongly believe New Trier’s 50% plan should have been in place since the beginning of the school year. It makes very little sense that we couldn’t open in August and September because it was deemed unsafe, yet in December when COVID-19 deaths and positive tests have greatly increased, it is somehow deemed safe to reopen,” said Hoeper.

Hoeper said the school deciding to reopen in December instead of August showed it never cared about listening to the science, but served teachers’ benefits before the students’.

“Teachers are an essential occupation and need to show up to the building and teach students. With New Trier taking the necessary steps of implementing social distancing guidelines and face covering requirements, there should be no excuses for teachers to not show up to work,” said Hoeper.

Hoeper believes it’s important to get as many students as possible in person during this time because it can help demonstrate to the School Board and State Government Leaders that schools can operate safely during this pandemic. 

“I wholeheartedly believe socialization is necessary for the growth and development of all high schoolers,” said Hoeper. 

Many parents believe the 50% model is an opportunity for students to increase needed social interactions, and are just as happy about sports returning to in-person play. 

“I am grateful that New Trier students are in school with an opportunity for face to face instruction even if it is at a 50% level. I think the staff is delivering as quality of a program as they can, given the circumstances. If someone doesn’t care for the current learning environment, be grateful,” said parent, Julie Erst. 

Parent Sarah Curry thinks the school is taking every precaution to get students and staff back to school safely. She thinks mandating the saliva screening for all students and staff is an effective way to ensure everyone’s safety.

“I hope that New Trier will continue to do everything they can to get the kids in class and participate in activities as much as possible. I think this has already started to happen with the 50% plan and the return of contact days for sports. I would like to see New Trier make better use of Mondays and use every opportunity to get the kids in school,” said Curry. 

According to the Reopening Advisery Board, during the week of Jan. 25 around 40% of students attended in-person at Northfield, and 30% attended at Winnetka . Classes taught on-campus by teachers were between 75-80% on these days. During that week, 97.53% of students have participated in the saliva screener, while 81.39% of staff have participated. Of the total screenings, two had a presumptive positive sample, which is a 0.06% district screener positivity rate. 

Students participating in the hybrid program have commented on their increased mental health due to an increase of social interactions.

“Being in school gives me the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with people, instead of staring at screens over zoom and feeling disconnected and isolated from the world,” said Hoeper.