The Administration Needs to Hold Students Accountable as We Return to School

March 11, 2020 was the last time the Albuquerque Academy held regular in-person classes as they had for 65 years prior. A lot of us remember that day or where we were when the email came. We all had a feeling of nervous excitement surrounding the news, for we were embarking on the unknown and it was mysterious and thrilling. But it has been almost a year since we learned in a classroom with other people, saw our teachers, or ate lunch in the Dining Hall. An entire year has gone by at home on our computers, and it is no longer mysterious or thrilling. It is lonely and absurd. No one is learning like they used to; no one is interacting with others like they used to, and no one wants to keep doing this. But there is now hope. Ms. Julianne Puente has proposed the return to school date of February 8, 2021 for the 6/7 Division and February 22, 2021 for the 8/9 and 10/12 Divisions. This is the first time we have seen an actual plan to get back in person. This light at the end of the tunnel sounds wonderful, but it is imperative that we now think of more than just ourselves when venturing out into the still pandemic-ridden world we live in. In order for students to feel safe returning to campus, families must follow the guidelines, and the administration must hold students accountable for breaking rules regarding safety and health.
Our state has slowly opened up and shut back down multiple times in the last seven months. It is exhausting trying to keep up with the new rules, but through it all one thing has stayed the exact same: we have not gone to school in person. We have all stayed at home. A return to school brings an increase in the risk of spreading the virus throughout the Academy community, so students and teachers alike need to think of others when making decisions now that a return date is marked on the calendar. While New Mexico’s cases have been decreasing, a new strain of Coronavirus has been found in New Mexico and this mutation is more contagious than the one before. Every day around 600 new cases pop up in our state, almost 200 a day in Bernalillo County, and realizing that this could be anyone in our Academy community is an essential first step in keeping everyone healthy. But this is not enough. Everyone in the community must take actions such as mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting out-of-state travel in order to keep the return plan moving and for us to actually return to school. And the administration has done an excellent job of highlighting these practices.
The most important thing now is for people to realize that it is no longer just them that could catch the virus. It is other students, teachers, and faculty, which then trickles into family units. This line of potential contamination doesn’t stop, and many students would not feel comfortable going to school if they know the virus has been close to them. With this in mind, the administration must hold students accountable for their actions regarding safety and health. For example, those who wish to travel out of state must fulfil a mandatory quarantine period and submit a negative Coronavirus test before returning to school. The administration is doing this, as we learned from the recent webinar, and they have even added the additional measure of a two week online period for all students after Spring Break. But we need more in regards to typical high school behavior such as partying.
Those who go to parties and post on social media must be punished — or at least must quarantine for a certain period of time. Other schools around the US are laying out severe consequences, so why not us? Back in October of 2020, a student and their parents faced charges after hosting a party of more than 50 high school students, causing the Massachusetts school to have to delay their opening. The Academy needs to come up with a plan as well. The Academy’s drug and alcohol policies are very clear in the student handbook. While it is completely understandable that Covid guidelines and consequences are not in there, they need to be somewhere. Substances such as drugs and alcohol may seem different from the virus, but spreading Covid is much worse, because while drinking may affect a student, being irresponsible during a pandemic will affect the student body. One person’s actions affect everyone in our school.
None of these decisions are easy and there is bound to be pushback from members of our community about the quarantine period or what is considered unsafe. But the key word being thrown around is flexible. During the webinar based around our return to school, flexible was constantly mentioned. Teachers mentioned flexibility with study halls, drop offs, and scheduling, but this is not an issue that word should apply to. Concrete rules and regulations must be laid out for all to follow if we want our return to school to be successful. The best way to prevent a slip up is to let everyone know what the expectations are and to lay out the consequences beforehand.