ILLUSTRATIONS BY GRAHAM KREWINGHAUS
After a year of the continuous rising and falling of COVID-19 cases, immense research done by the world’s most decorated doctors and scientists and more than a year removed from the initial shut down of schools, students have begun to attend school in a more familiar way again.
The Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) have begun to allow students to attend school in-person four days a week with different roll-out days depending on grade level. Thus far, only the limited number of students in Cohort A have been attending school in-person four days a week at the high school. In the coming months, plans are in place to allow more students this option as administrators and committee members work to find ways to safely accommodate all students.
Many have been impatient to take this major step because of the concerns around the impact online learning has had on students. According to High Focus Centers, a resource for outpatient treatment programs regarding mental health, learning online has been a struggle for many, and has led to increased rates of stress, anxiety and depression amongst students, along with social isolation and decreased ability to process information being taught. Members of government, both town and national, have stressed the importance of getting children to go back to school in order to maximize their learning potential and avoid missing a crucial part of their development, both inside and outside of the classroom.
As the town begins to take a step forward to an in-person learning environment, there are five pillars of safety that come into play: cohorting and contact tracing, physical distancing, masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilation and testing. As we have begun to move away from cohorting, the focus on ventilation, PPE, safe distance and testing has continued to show efficacy in keeping the schools safe for students and staff. According to David Gacioch, co-chair of Expert Advisory Panel 4: Public Health, Safety and Logistics, the district is well positioned to make this shift.