Do Students Feel Safe In School?


Sienna Gregory

Student wears cotton mask in school classroom

Students in the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District and all over the country have been placed in different learning environments and models due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new situation students are being placed in inevitably raises the question: do students feel safe in school?

Without much say, students are being forced to make decisions every week on whether or not to stay in school or go fully remote. For many, this means putting either education quality or safety on the line. No matter how it may seem to people outside the school, toggling between two new learning styles raises concerns for many students and staff.

Given that most schools are still open during a pandemic, the most prevalent concern on everyone’s mind is safety. Schools across the country have instituted full-time masks, social distancing in all classrooms, and outdoor mask breaks. For some this feels like more than enough and others feel like schools should not be in session at all.

In addition to the safety additions to school life, some teachers have chosen to be fully remote the entire school year. This leads to zooms, live streams, and online learning time to be increased during the school day.

Between the risk of contracting COVID-19 and the amount of screen time, students are becoming more aware of their health during this time and have formed their own opinions on the mere safety of schools.

Recently, more and more students have chosen to go fully remote. This made the school feel more empty than usual. 10th grader Abby Simon stated that school felt “really quiet”, especially during lunch and “stressful” due to the added pressure of being one of the only students in a class. The lack of students also made people wonder if safety in schools is being doubted and how it could be improved.

For many hybrid students, the safety of the school has been a constant struggle and concern, while others see no problem with the safety within the school building. On the other hand, some students have chosen to go remote due to their unsafe feeling while being in school, while other remote students would love to return to school.

Hybrid 10th grader Mia Fleury, expressed her thoughts on how the school is dealing with maintaining safety for everyone throughout the pandemic. Fleury stated “I think [the teachers] are doing the best they can” and she feels “mostly safe in school.” After stating she feels socially distanced in most of her classrooms she began to comment on the lunchroom. “It makes me feel a little bit uneasy when I’m at lunch just having to take my mask down. Especially because you want to talk to your friends and stuff, but you don’t want to get too close to them” said Fleury when asked about how safe she feels at lunch.

Fleury brought up the concern about the lunchroom that many other students feel. Fully remote Sophomore Sophie Bassom expressed that after being a “hybrid student for the first few months” she went remote because she was “forced by [her] parents because they were scared of lunch.” For students like Bassom, the lunchroom was the deciding factor in whether they stayed hybrid or not.

Hybrid sophomore Laynee Wilkins stated that she feels socially distanced “in classes and [she] thinks the one time [she] is a little uncomfortable with it is during lunch.” In regards to lunch, she noted that she doesn’t “feel six feet away from the person next to [her].” Wilkins also stated that she would feel safer if the desks were more spread out at lunch especially because “not all the chairs are filled up.”

Not only is health in regards to COVID-19 in question, but also students’ mental and physical health due to the increased amount of screen time. Fleury, Bassom, and Wilkins were all personally concerned about the amount of screen time they were encountering within both learning models. Bassom stated that “the effect of being remote on my mental health has certainly been noticeably negative.” Wilkins agreed with the statement and said “sitting at your desk all day with your eyes on your computer, that’s definitely a problem.”

Fleury added that sitting at a desk and staring at a screen all day “is not an effective way to learn” she also feels that it will “be harmful to people’s development and their mental and physical health.” She then went on to add that “you’re not getting that social interaction that you would normally” explaining the harm to mental health. Bassom “wants to go back to hybrid so badly because [she misses] the social aspect of school.”

After being placed in new learning environments students have developed concerns about their safety while having to navigate through those struggles in order to learn. Students seem to feel mostly safe at school; however, they agree that the lunchrooms and screen time specifically, are major health concerns. While they may feel safe going into the building itself, these specific results of the hybrid and remote learning models are what apprehends their feeling of true safety.