Safety tops reopening concerns

Though state guidelines prohibit Diamond Bar High School from opening its doors to students for the foreseeable future, there are plenty of ideas and opinions among the high school community regarding the campus closure and eventual reopening.

Despite circumstances, the community reception of the transition to distance learning is generally favorable. Most agree that the school needs to stay closed for the safety of the community.

“I think school administrators are doing [a] good job,” Korean teacher Robert Hwang said via email. “During [a] pandemic, school should be closed for students and staff’s safety until [the] pandemic is over. Safety is the most important for [the] DBHS community.”

Many parents also agree with the notion of prioritizing safety over convenience. It’s clear by looking at other U.S. schools that have reopened that to do so is an enormous risk, with cases spiking not only among students but entire counties where school reopens.

“School should open whenever it is safe to, I don’t want to risk the lives of people if it’s unnecessary,” parent Geraldine Budiman said via Instagram.

Another parent, Yang Yu, said that the school should continue its online operations until the pandemic is under control and we have a vaccine, no matter how long it takes–which, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, may not be until early 2021.

“School can open when we can control the pandemic and have [vaccines] for COVID-19,” Yu said via text. “It may take years to [vaccinate] everyone and people aren’t staying at home so we should keep learning online.”

Once DBHS can reopen, though it’s unclear when that will be, many parents like Budiman have a few ideas as to how the administration can safely get students on campus each day.

“Students should be distanced everywhere on campus, and if it can’t be done in classrooms use the outside since [COVID-19] is more dangerous inside anyways,” Budiman said. 

She also said that there should be options available for students to continue learning from home if they feel safer that way. She said this could be accomplished by having teachers record their classes shared with the students at home. Though popular with students and parents, this idea has drawn mixed reactions from teachers for various reasons.

 For history teacher Becky Bevans, the idea has both ups and downs.

“I only see a potential benefit of recording direct teacher instruction. However, I don’t believe that daily video recording would be beneficial on days where students are working in collaborative groups, watching a video or using materials at school that students may not have at home,” Bevans said via email. “I am concerned that students watching online may actually feel more excluded when they see their peers attending school, participating in live lessons, and interacting with others. They may feel as though they are ‘missing out.'”

The prevailing opinion was that students and staff should follow the basic social distancing guidelines to minimize contracting the virus. Hwang said the CDC will give the administration strict guidelines to follow for reopening, and that with them, the administration will have a better idea of what needs to be done.

“Aerosol of COVID 19 is alive 3-4 hours in [the] bathroom after using [the] toilet according to Health Care Institutes. So students should wear a mask , [keep] social distance, [wash] hands in [the] bathroom as well as in class and school should disinfect each period to protect students and teachers from COVID-19,” Hwang said. “Each class should be minimized and put [a] divided shield on [each] student desk.”

As for computer use on campus, some believe that each student should bring their own laptop and that the school should provide one for those without them. This is because communal laptops and computers have frequently-touched surfaces used for long periods, making them viral hot-spots.

“I think everyone should just use their own laptops instead of using public computers, since most people at DBHS have one, there should be enough chromebooks for the people who don’t,” Budiman said. “I want my children to be as safe as possible with their own devices.”

Although the school library may be harder to maintain when school reopens, many believe its value justifies the extra effort. A school library is an essential tool for students who need a quiet place to study, do research or print documents, especially while most public libraries remain closed.

“Even though [it’s] difficult to disinfect the people who use the library. [They] know the risks and [choose] to accept the,” junior Grace Tjiptadjaja said via Instagram. “Maybe providing disinfecting wipes as well as staying six feet apart and limiting the number of people that can be allowed in the room can keep [it] clean.”

DBHS will reopen once the Los Angeles County infection rates drop below a certain level; however, how the campus will reopen remains to be seen.