COVID-19 Safety Procedures: What’s Not Working

Some concerns have arisen about the perceived level of safety for the students in teachers in school.

COVID-19 Safety Procedures: Whats Not Working

After returning from a long break from in-person learning, there have been many adjustments to the new safety protocols. Some concerns have arisen about the perceived level of safety for the students in teachers in school.

In previous communications from the administration regarding the reopening of schools, it was mentioned that desks should be spaced 6 feet apart on all sides, to help ensure that students would be safely distanced. Per government guidelines, this was to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, as keeping a distance of 6 feet or more has been strongly recommended. However, it has been noticed by students that in many classrooms desks are not always 6 feet apart. In reality, many are closer to 4-5 feet or even less in some cases.

The distances between desks were measured in a multitude of ways. Measurements varied, with some desks being a safe 6 or more feet away, but some were as close as 3 and a half feet away from one another when measured from edge to edge. “A square footage study was conducted on every room in the building to determine maximum capacity while maintaining the necessary 6 feet between students,” Principal Dr. Holtzman said.

A photo taken in a North High classroom with desks clearly closer than 6 feet apart. (Credit: Ava Hoffman)

Another safety measure that many students consistently feel is not working out is the “one person in a bathroom at a time” rule. Limiting the number of students in a restroom has led to some easily foreseeable problems, compounded by the school also limiting the number of bathrooms to sometimes as few as two across the entire school. This has led to extremely long lines outside of the bathrooms, and a significant amount of missed class time for waiting students. “People need to be able to use the bathroom without a Broadway intermission-sized line,” said Aliza Fine, a senior.

Additionally, quite a few students have been seen wearing masks below their nose while walking in the hallway, or even on their chins during classes. “It does make me uncomfortable that 10% of people don’t pull their mask up if it slips off their nose or just fully not have one on,” Fine said.  

Other students had additional concerns about feeling comfortable and safe in school. “I see people taking their masks off and hugging their friends in the halls with zero concern,” freshman Nina Zar said.

A graphic demonstrating proper and improper ways to wear masks. (Credit: New York Times)

Plus, several students have complained that their teachers aren’t always diligent at enforcing school safety policy, leaving it up to students to police behavior and causing discomfort for them in the classroom. In addition, students have not always consistently been wearing masks outside, leading to many complaints from neighbors. 

Despite these issues, students at North report feeling generally safe in the school building and recognize the efforts of the school. “The school is doing the best that they can do,” said Jack Brenner, a sophomore. “They have given out safety kits, checked temperatures, and enforced protocol in the halls and even in the classrooms.”

Dr. Holtzman shared his perspective on how the school was improving. “Overall, the practice of wearing masks during the school day and ID cards has been getting better with each day,” Dr. Holtzman said. “It took some adjustment and reminders and each day offers us an opportunity to grow these practices.”

In fact, the school has made daily announcements reminding students to wear masks properly and has recently placed signs reminding students to wear masks outdoors at lunch.

One of the recently placed signs, seen on the front lawn of North High. (Credit: Ava Hoffman)

“It is not a matter of whether what is in place works or not and more to do with compliance from everyone in the school,” Dr. Holtzman said. “I believe that everyone has good intentions, and with intention goes the responsibility to follow through. In order to keep us as safe as possible, the commitment to this follow-through is critical. The parameters in place are not for negotiation or argument; they are in place for everyone’s protection.”

Against the backdrop of increasing Covid positivity in Great Neck, safety inside the schools are paramount. Outside the school many upperclassmen and adults have been seen on social media going to large parties and gatherings without any masks or distancing.  The local parent Facebook groups are filled with examples of adults who do not believe in the value of masks or following guidance for small indoor groups.  The sad truth is that even with perfect behavior in school as unrealistic as that may be, with the rapid rise in Covid cases in Great Neck, and the new state guidelines, it is increasingly likely that the schools will be forced to close unless behavior significantly changes.