Students and Staff Feel Left in the Dark

Hallie Meaney, OHS Math Teacher

Hallie Meaney, OHS Math Teacher

Miles Kirkbride, Journalist

When asked how they felt about the level of communication surrounding school Covid guidelines and protocols last year, both OHS students and staff expressed a similar notion of frustration. A lack of clear information regarding changes to things like schedules and policies left, and still leaves, many feeling completely out of the loop. The pandemic created an unprecedented situation nationwide, where schools had to essentially reinvent the way they operated in a digital and remote environment with online learning. But during this process of reconstructing the school environment, community members seem to have lost a certain level of transparency, and may never get it back.

Students feel they have been the most directly impacted by the school’s changes regarding Covid, but generally seem to have been the least informed. Rowan Mcauley, OHS Senior, states that “my parents were teachers, so I was lucky in that I was a little more informed than others, but I still had a hard time figuring out the sudden schedule changes and things like that.” Sudden changes needed to be made in order to comply with constantly shifting guidelines from both the state and the school district, however, those who they changes impacted the most were not properly informed.

Teachers are equally impacted by this lack of transparency from school and district leadership. Hallie Meaney, OHS Math Teacher, states that last school year, “everything felt like a surprise. Things changed way too much. I felt like information was being withheld and not given until it was convenient.” This year as well, Meaney says “there is not enough communication…what happens if 300 kids get sick?” While school has been allowed to mostly return to normal, many of these concerns surrounding a potential outbreak or a return to remote learning remain. Some schools across the state have been forced to close their doors already, and while OHS is “doing a better job of just having social distancing precautions, like wearing masks and trying to stay apart,”  as Meaney says, it still remains a possibility. Conversely, Mcauley added that he predicts “some sort of school shutdown by Christmas break,” given the crowded halls and cafeteria.

Dr. Viniegra, Assistant Principal at OHS, had to say that while COVID-19 has “offered more challenges to what I do, it has brought to light a lot of the social, emotional needs of the students that a lot of us suspected were there, but were not entirely clear all the time,” which “has allowed me to reconsider what I can do help students.” In reference to possible plans for remote learning later in the school year, Viniegra added: “I don’t have a straight answer. We haven’t heard anything about it so far.” Just like last year, school staff and administration aren’t being kept properly informed about plans and guidelines surrounding COVID protocols. When this kind of information is being withheld, it forces OHS staff to make sudden decisions that can negatively impact students and teachers, and everyone is left feeling overwhelmed and unadvised.