By Lily Belcher
Despite a summer filled with uncertainty over the reopening of Hillsborough County schools, campuses reopened on August 31 with measures in place to protect students and staff against the coronavirus, including promoting social distancing by spacing out desks and encouraging students to walk in one direction in hallways.
Since social distancing is not always possible in small classrooms and crowded hallways, students and teachers are required to wear face masks during the eight-hour school days.
Nyla Flowers, a junior at Bloomingdale High School, said, “The hardest part about school this year is definitely being able to talk to people in class because you aren’t near anyone anymore and students don’t really like talking with masks on.”
Because the masks muffle conversation, some teachers are using clear face shields so students can read their lips or wearing Bluetooth microphones over their masks while teaching.
Extracurricular activities were forced to be adapted to a set of new procedures in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while promoting student involvement in school events. Sports teams are allowed to conduct practices as long as they social distance when possible and wipe down equipment before and after each use.
Other after-school programs are following similar procedures, using hand sanitizer often and continuing to wear masks while inside practice rooms.
District Spokesperson Erin Maloney explained the importance of extracurricular activities for students, saying, “School is about much more than just going into classrooms and getting good grades. There’s a social, emotional aspect as well.”
Despite the safety measures being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in schools, there have been nearly 500 students and employees that have tested positive since school began in Hillsborough County. After each positive test, the school is responsible for tracing who the student had contact with for more than 15 minutes.
While the reopening of schools has not been completely infection free, the procedures being followed have allowed students to return to campuses despite the coronavirus and resume their education in the safest way possible.
For more information about Hillsborough County schools reopening, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us.