Students express mixed feelings on safety as school year begins

New Trier returns to 100% in-person learning while taking safety measures

While many students are excited to start the school year, some are concerned with transitioning back to a fully in-person plan with the Delta variant being present. 

According to New Trier’s 2021-2022 instructional plan, the school has upgraded ventilation systems, COVID-safe cleaning protocols, and will continue to promote hand hygiene with widespread hand sanitation stations. The school will also establish a 2021-2022 COVID-19 Operational Dashboard which will contain information and data on vaccine percentages, student/staff quarantine, COVID-19 positivity rates, and safety protocols. 

I also hope everyone respects what New Trier is doing. New Trier is obviously always looking out for our safety”

— Anika Roche

Seniors Michael Caplan and Anika Roche believe that the school is capable of returning its students to the building full-time as long as the entire community demonstrates its ability to follow the rules and keep transmission low. 

“Considering how much time the administration and staff have had to adjust back to in-person learning, and using last year as a baseline, I think they should have good protocols in place for contact tracing and ensuring we are all safe,” said Caplan

Roche thinks New Trier is currently doing everything it can, however she is concerned with the Delta variant being present in the beginning of the school year. 

“I think the original idea of them opening at full capacity was good but now since Delta has gotten so bad, maybe they need to reevaluate again. Delta is said to be more contagious than chicken pox. I definitely have concerns because we’ve seen in the past that while masks are extremely effective, they’re not completely effective,” said Roche. 

According to the school’s plan, the district will follow the Governor’s Executive Order, which requires mandatory indoor masking. In addition, the school will have routine COVID-19 testing available through the University of Illinois Shield program, keep 3-ft social distancing for students when possible, and continue the enhancements to its cleaning processes and ventilation systems. 

“I think that in order to ensure the safest environment possible, New Trier should require all its staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as they would for things like whooping cough, measles, meningitis, and chickenpox. It’s just another variable that could lead to people getting sick and I don’t think we have a lot of room for error,” said Caplan. 

Junior Sean Hoeper believes that the school is safe enough to reopen to full in-person learning because 88% of students and 97% of faculty are vaccinated.

“I’m not worried about the school reopening. I feel comfortable with the amount of health and safety measures New Trier plans to operate with, for the school year. Although I feel those who are vaccinated should have the option to not wear a mask,” said Hoeper. 

Sophomore Madison Liu is slightly concerned about schools reopening with the Delta variant numbers increasing, but feels that New Trier is taking an appropriate amount of safety measures. 

“I feel like the vaccinated students wouldn’t need to wear masks while being indoors. If students appropriately socially distance themselves at least six feet from each other, it is harder to spread Covid to one another,” said Liu. 

The school is implementing an operational plan for the school year which is designed to communicate the mitigation strategies and safety measures that the school will use. The strategies in the plan are based on science, advice from medical professionals, and guidance or mandates from local, state, and national public health institutions. As the science of the pandemic and the variants continues to develop, procedures are subject to change. 

“Lunch spaces and public spaces at full capacity will be really scary. I also think that in bathrooms, encouraging people to keep their masks on [is important] because if someone goes into the bathroom stall, takes their masks off for a couple seconds, leaves, and someone new walks in, the particles will still be in the air. It’ll also be hard, if we’re at full capacity, to space everyone out in the classrooms in order to have social distancing. I just think people need to get vaccinated,” said Roche. 

Junior Natalie Kim believes the implemented rules will be helpful in the beginning of the school year however she thinks the school should strongly encourage washing hands instead of sanitizing before lunch. 

“During summer school the cold went around, and in my class everybody wore masks, and distanced pretty well. But we had to touch materials, and weren’t really cleaned after, so germs can spread more easily. I did wash my hands, but after a while I stopped because of my laziness, and ended up getting COVID-19,” said Kim.

Students are hoping for a relatively normal school year with events that can be conducted safely to have a full high school experience. 

“Of course my grades come first, and that’s always been how I am. But given everything we’ve all gone through in the year and a half, two years of COVID-19, I hope that we can get some semblance of normalcy. I also hope everyone respects what New Trier is doing. New Trier is obviously always looking out for our safety. How they do it may be questionable at times, but their motives are always in the students’ best interest,” said Roche.