Students Face Three Week Quarantine and Testing Cancellations

COVID-19 Jeopardizes School Futures for Students and Staff

On March 15, Governor Charlie Baker declared a three week school cancellation for all Massachusetts private and public schools. Walpole Superintendent, Bridget Gough, already instated a two week cancellation from March 16 to March 27, but Baker’s declaration extended the time off from school. Students locally and nationally must now complete online assignments from home. 

From what I’ve experienced over the last couple days, I feel like it’s a lot harder to focus at home compared to school or even the library. It’s so easy to get distracted, and self-teaching material is not nearly as efficient as classroom learning. It honestly feels like I’m just doing homework the entire day instead of online school,” junior Mia Costa said.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease started in Wuhan, China that has spread across the globe, and it was officially declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11. Some symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough, shortness of breath and persistent pain or pressure on the chest. The virus is spread through human contact, specifically an infected person coughing or sneezing in close proximity. COVID-19 poses a more serious risk to older adults and people with prior medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or people who are immunocompromised. 

To prevent the spread of the disease, people are encouraged to practice social distancing by staying more than six feet away from others, practicing good hygiene and avoiding crowds. As of March 16, the White House encourages people not to gather in groups of 10 people or more. 

Massachusetts declared a state of emergency on March 10, and the White House declared a national emergency on March 13. Schools across Massachusetts are responding in various ways to the impending crisis. Boston Public Schools are closed until April 27, while many colleges, such as the University of Massachusetts, have cancelled until the end of the school year. Colleges across America have already cancelled spring graduation ceremonies. 

As of March 17, Walpole has not cancelled any future events such as prom or graduation, yet other schools in Massachusetts, such as the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional District, have cancelled prom. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) also officially postponed the start of the spring sports season to April 27. 

I am fearful that the precautions needed around COVID will persist through the rest of the school year. As a senior, I am worried that certain milestones like graduation will be cancelled, because it is a celebration for all of our hard work over the course of four years. I also want the time to be with my friends and fellow peers before having to graduate and not being able to have fun at events like senior prom because of COVID would be so upsetting,” senior Grace Buckley said. 

During the three week quarantine, many students, parents and teachers face an unprecedented shift into online learning. Many teachers utilize technology and platforms including Google Classroom to stay in touch with students. 

The next few weeks will definitely be a learning experience for me,” social studies teacher Philip Balkus said. 

Standardized testing, such as the SAT and ACT, has also been affected by COVID-19. The SAT through May has been cancelled, and the April ACT has also been cancelled. In addition, almost all colleges have cancelled campus tours or accepted students weekends, which can put many juniors and seniors behind in the college application and decision process. 

Thinking of the rest of the year poses a lot of unknowns, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t think end of year events would be affected by the pandemic. As a junior, college planning is getting extremely difficult when managing standardized test dates and cancelled school tours,” Costa said.

In times of crisis, the future is unknown, but Walpole administration yearns to stay accessible during this time. The WHS Guidance Department sent students resources for online learning and managing the virus. They also assured students that they will still be available for students via email. During this alarming time, citizens are asked to adhere to state and federal guidelines to ensure a safe and healthy future.