School days at Southeast Polk, and around the US, look quite different from last year. COVID-19 has impacted schools across the nation, but SEP has taken precautions to ensure safety of the students.
“We follow guidance from the Polk County and Iowa Department of Public Health and CDC,” Southeast Polk High School Principal Steve Pettit said. “The first and most visible mitigation strategy is the requiring of face masks. The district did provide a SEP face mask to all students and faculty, and we provide disposable face masks daily for kids who come without one. The district also increased the availability of hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes in every classroom, the entrance to every stairwell and bathroom, and throughout the Commons for lunch. Along with this, the school board has been managing the school plan; whether we are hybrid 2, hybrid 1, or remote. All plans are based off of global, statewide data guidelines. The board still has to make decisions with instruction, with safety being our priority.”
Pettit goes on to mention the effectiveness of hybrid two.
“Within hybrid 2, which we spent the majority of our semester in, we can provide 6 feet of physical distance during the majority of the day. Passing times are short interactions, those types of things we do not provide that distance, but everywhere else it’s 6 feet. When we transitioned to hybrid 1, we couldn’t maintain 6 feet in classrooms, but we did maintain it during lunch, which is why we created the auditorium holding area in order to have space. Because when kids are eating lunch, that’s when they don’t have masks, which is the time the virus has the ability to spread easiest. So that was really important to us, to provide a lunch system which allowed all students and staff to have adequate distance from people who didn’t have masks.”
The SEP board also allowed juniors and seniors to have open campus during lunch, and allowed students to leave when they had study hall.
In addition to the efforts Southeast Polk has made, students need to be responsible and take mask requirements seriously.
“One of my main concerns in school is masks,” said sophomore Austin Young. “Wearing them properly is the most important thing you can do to keep others safe. When you wear your mask below your nose, you’re defeating the purpose.”
According to health.ucsd.edu, it’s important to wear a mask in order to protect yourself from the virus, and to protect others, especially if you are asymptomatic. In order to wear it properly, make sure it is covering your nose and mouth, and that it is snug to your face.
Wearing a mask is important, but so is handling it properly. According to cdc.gov, the appropriate way to take off a mask is to remove it by the straps, wash your hands right after, and not to wear it again until it is washed.
It is also recommended by the CDC to stay socially distant (6 feet), to wash and sanitize, and to stay away from the sick.
If you are to come into contact with someone who is sick, or you find yourself feeling ill, the CDC strongly recommends you to stay out of social gatherings and to quarantine in your home. SEP has taken these recommendations very seriously and contacts people in the schools if they have had contact with someone who tested positive.
People with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, but there are some signs to look for if you are nervous you contracted it. If you have congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, nausea, loss of smell or taste, stomach pain, pink eye, or diarrhea; it is recommended that you get tested.
While many kids are stressed over school, more so than usual, Pettit looks to the bright side, and points out things students can do to help themselves.
“First and foremost, be careful. Take responsibility, think of more than just yourself,” he said. “Think of what you can do to have a positive impact on our community. It comes to just universal precautions.
He wants to remind students that attitude can be everything right now.
“All of those things are hard, but if you look at this as an opportunity we can gain valuable skills that are going to make us more college and career life ready. Again, not that anyone would have chosen this path. But it has paved a way for those who accept this challenge, for those who work hard to be successful in this world amidst this pandemic,” said Pettit.