Helena has recently returned to school 4 days a week. Although this change has fixed many problems, it has also introduced new obstacles, and one of those problems is lunch. Lunch used to be the big social aspect of the school day with students all over campus, in cars, driving to Dairy Queen, and ordering pizza to the office. Now, lunch has become less restricted than during phase one.
A newsletter released to the parents by Helena High School stated that on A days, A day students would be expected to stay in their 4th period while B day students could sit in the hall. However, some teachers have been telling students- specifically upperclassmen, that they may sit in their car any day if they prefer.
Students have also been eating outside in front of the school and in the courtyard. This is much safer than eating together inside, but still does not necessarily obey social distancing rules. Students are also eating together in their cars. However, many of these students already experience close contact, which reduces contact tracing and helps eliminate further spreading.
With students in their cars and outside it is impossible for teachers to accurately monitor the activity of every student at lunch. It is also hard for teachers to enforce any lunchtime policy as students have been hearing different messages about what is acceptable.
The question is: where should the line be drawn for lunchtime at HHS? Should students be able to leave their 4th-period classroom? Should they be allowed to leave campus? Are they allowed to be in their cars? There doesn’t seem to be clear guidelines from administration, leaving many teachers to set their own rules during this unprecedented time, but what is the best choice for the safety of our students?
The problem is the inconsistency of rules and the inability to accurately monitor lunchtime. In previous years teachers monitored lunch, but during hybrid school, teachers were asked to stay in their rooms with their students. Now that students can leave their classrooms, are teachers also allowed to leave?
This may seem like unsafe COVID conditions to some parents which may make them feel unsafe sending their children to school. However, it’s worth noting that many students and teachers have been vaccinated or have received their first dose. According to the CDC, individuals who are fully vaccinated are allowed to be indoors without masks. With the majority of students and teachers vaccinated, is the safety of lunch still a large concern?
At the end of the day, there is no perfect solution to the lunchtime conundrum as with many issues during our current times. So far this year, Helena High has had 106 confirmed positive covid cases and there have been no new cases within the past 2 weeks. Hopefully, this trend will continue.
Lunchtime can still be a fun, relaxing time for students, but every person should take it upon themselves to be as healthy and conscientious of others’ health as possible. This means wearing a mask even when vaccinated and attempting to stay in pods and social distance.