The United States was hit with another large surge of COVID-19 in the weeks before and following winter break. Maryland was deemed a high risk state averaging about 10,000 cases per day (currently Maryland is averaging 2,700 cases per day) and it was astonishing that despite the high cases, HCPSS remained adamant about continuing in person learning. 

The county’s superintendent had announced a decision to suspend all after school activities until further notice. This suspension was lifted after the winter break, possibly one of the most foolish decisions yet. With students traveling across the nation—and even globe—it’s not rocket science that COVID-19 cases would increase. The county should have seen this coming and should have taken responsible action. 

In Washington D.C, all DCPS students were required to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to school after winter break. In P.G County, the board decided to temporarily shift to online learning for the two weeks subsequent to the break. Even Montgomery County is having high risk schools go back online during this recent COVID-19 surge. 

Although the county has implemented precautions to keep students safe, they aren’t adequate enough. Why is it that no more than two students are allowed in school bathrooms yet meals in the student filled cafeterias with no masks and no ventilation is okay?

HCPSS students took it in their own hands to make the county aware of their concerned voices by creating a petition titled, “HCPSS Go Virtual During Omicron Case Surge.” As of today, the petition garnered roughly 10,200 signatures. 

“Students should not have to decide between their health and education,” commented Carter Rakestraw, one of the petition signers. 

Another signer, Nicole Koonce, a HCPSS parent, went on to say, “Our children should not be placed on the front line by putting them in school when the state positivity rate is at least 26%! We successfully managed a year of virtual learning. We need to have the versatility to move between in person and virtual at these moments!! Help keep our children safe!”

While in-person learning is needed for socialization and is objectively the best form of learning, “The safety & health of HCPSS students is more important than sitting in a physical classroom,” said Alexa J, one of HCPSS community members who signed the petition.  

Many people see the new Omicron variant as a simple cold, but this is most definitely not the case. There have been reported cases of people, even the vaccinated, being hospitalized by Omicron. Despite it being less severe than the Delta variant, it has shown to be more contagious

With the possibility of new covid strains appearing, HCPSS should have the flexibility to transition from in-person to online and vice versa when needed. It’s not that HCPSS schools should shut down for the remainder of the year, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, but the county should look into 2-weeks of online schooling to help lower the spread of COVID-19 during times of higher surges. 

As the creators of the petitions wrote, “Dr. Martirano and members of the Board of Education: If even a single student in HCPSS ends up in the hospital, faces long-term effects of COVID-19 for months or years, spreads COVID-19 to a vulnerable loved one, or dies: it’ll be your fault.”

Posted by Sumaya Abdel-Motagaly

Sumaya Abdel-Motagaly is a junior at Atholton with a passion for all things reading and writing. In her free time she enjoys chilling with friends, painting, reading Stephen King novels, and sleeping. In the future, Sumaya hopes to pursue a career in Journalism.

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