Do Students Feel Safe Right Now With the Pandemic?

Sreenidhi Dharmaraj

Navigating through the pandemic has been difficult for both students and school administrators. As the country experiences its next surge in cases with the Omicron variant, school districts are reevaluating measures to protect the community. 

Lexington Public Schools has authorized a variety of policies and programs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to Kathleen Lenihan, the chair of the School Committee. These measures include a mask mandate, a test-to-stay program, pooled surveillance testing, and a new lunch schedule for Lexington High School students.

Despite these measures, some LHS students still feel unsafe at school. Part of their unease comes from observed failures in following and regulating social distancing guidelines. 

“It’s more about social distancing—not hugging people [or] having big crowds—because ultimately, no space between people is what causes more cases,” Nana Lee, a junior, said.  

Emily Wang, a junior, expressed her concern for crowded areas around the school during passing time and lunch blocks when students are often in close contact.. 

“I don’t see the schools trying to do much about making things less crowded,” Wang said. “We have such a huge campus, it’s hard to get places with so many people. It’s just really difficult to get by and that causes a lot of crowding.”  

Although the school has added a fourth lunch period to minimize crowds, overcrowding in common lunch spots still poses safety issues. Wang describes her alarm while walking past the gym. 

“Everybody has their masks off. And, I know people don’t want to have to clean up the gym floor, so that’s why [students] don’t sit on the gym floors, but it’s so crowded there,” Wang said. “You take one look at it, and that’s not even close to being COVID safe.”

Even though students do not feel completely safe at LHS, LPS has developed a relatively safe environment with the resources at hand. 

“I would rate LPS’ response highly,” Lenihan said. “I think we’ve done about as well as we can, which isn’t necessarily very satisfying because sometimes, as well as you can, isn’t very good.”

Some students at LHS echo this sentiment. 

“I feel like Lexington has done the most that they can with the restrictions instated,” Lee said.

To improve LPS’ response, some are calling for more drastic actions, like implementing a remote system and strictly enforcing safety measures. 

However, Lenihan said that the decision to go back to a remote learning system was not simply up to the town. This year the state and the commissioner of the Department of Education and Secondary Education (DESE) have discounted remote learning as a valid mode of learning. In other words, time spent in remote learning would not contribute to the number of learning time required for students. 

“This is beyond the level of local control. This lies with those state bodies, and they’re very clear about what they want to see happen,” Lenihan said. 

While the administration may not be able to implement a remote learning system, they can certainly tighten safety regulations around the high school to better address the concerns of the student body. Establishing consequences for those who wear their masks incorrectly may be a good next step. 

It is crucial to validate those students who may be worried about contracting the virus and spreading it to other friends and family members who may be vulnerable. One thing Lexington has done well, however, is sticking together and understanding that residents must help each other. 

“It’s really hard as parents, seeing your children struggle, and we’re just really appreciative of all the support that the students have shown wearing the masks when they don’t want to, participating in pool testing, and realizing we’re all in this together,” Lenihan said.