How Westlake High School should reopen during a global pandemic

Cars line up at Westlake High School to pick up food during the pandemic in May. Photo by Nathan Hsiao

During the rise in COVID-19 cases, reopening school in the fall may force educators to integrate creative solutions. As a recent graduate from Westlake High School, I care deeply about our community, health and education. While I recognize that I am not a qualified health expert, I have outlined below some of my ideas of how our Westlake education system could adapt to the global pandemic. These changes would primarily entail: 1) a more centralized classroom model; 2) prepared lunch delivery service; 3) preservation of the most important values of education. 

I believe that a hybrid model that features both in-person and remote learning would be best. Many high schools are thinking about alternating days students come to school. In addition, I think more drastic changes should be implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19 transmission.

A typical day at Westlake High School looks something like this: students come to school and either stay in common areas or directly go to their 1st-period class before school starts. They then leave their 1st-period class and move on to different classrooms for their successive classes around the building.

This conventional system may be difficult to limit a potential infection, especially when hundreds of students are walking through the same hallways, eating off the same tables, sharing the same chairs, and using the same computers. 

Even with all hygiene precautions in place- not touching your face or putting your fingers in your mouth – many students can underestimate how often they subconsciously do that. Thus, I believe that our educational system should be more centralized. 

Rather than having hundreds of students move from successive classrooms, educators should provide the option of allocating students into a single classroom or “cohorts” for the entirety of their in-person coursework. Teachers, not the students, would transfer from respective classrooms.

Centralizing our education system could significantly limit the spread of infection as the number of teachers is significantly less than the student body.  Furthermore, if there was a potential infection, health authorities are able more effectively introduce contact tracing because students are contained with their specific “cohorts” or classrooms. 

In regard to lunch, I believe it is in the best interest of our education system and health to remove public cafeterias. Instead, lunch should take place within the students’ assigned classroom. School districts should implement prepared meal delivery service for students who choose to opt-in to school dining options. 

I also believe that school is a place for not just learning, but also an important environment to foster humanizing interactions. As humans, we are inherently social creatures. We strive to find friends and interact with our classmates and teachers. School ultimately helps us develop important empathetic skills and relationships.

Moving school completely virtual could possibly remove these integral experiences in our lives. In a hybrid model, on the days remote learning takes place, I recommend that teachers assign video lectures and reading material to students. Then, during the days of in-person learning, students will have the opportunity to work together on problem sets, ask questions, and participate in class discussion. Thus, I believe that a more centralized system would preserve the most essential humanizing aspects – group collaboration, the facilitation of ideas, and interaction with our classmates and teachers.  

I recognize many logistical complexities. However, I sincerely believe that this model would best limit a potential infection, without having to move classes online. The goal of this system is to preserve our education values without jeopardizing our health.  

Nathan Hsiao

Hi, my name is Nathan Hsiao. I was the Editor-in-Chief of The Green and White Newspaper at Westlake High School. I will be attending Case Western Reserve University this fall as a freshman. I love writing. I have written about community issues, student fashion, and local news. I am also interested in exploring new areas and topics as well.

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Volume 12, Issue 15, Posted 9:51 AM, 08.04.2020