Does the WFS Community Feel Safe at School?

Molly Lavelle, Science and Technology Writer

Covid cases in the United States are higher than ever before, yet schools in Delaware remain open. Many schools have used different methods to keep their students and faculty as safe as possible. Some students across Delaware are stepping into their schools for the first time this week since March of 2020. Wilmington Friends has advanced all the way from being completely online in the Spring of 2020 to now allowing students and faculty to be in-person learning up to four days a week. With many students learning in-person, there is a constant risk of being exposed to the virus at school. Students can be exposed in many simple ways like sitting in a classroom or using the bathroom. The big question here is how many students and faculty members actually feel safe at school?

After asking middle and high school students if they felt protected from the virus at school, the responses were very 50/50. Some students felt extremely safe in school and others talked about how they felt so unsafe it caused them to want to go online. Middle school student Emma Lavelle ‘26 talked about how she did not feel safe at school. She noted that students are not always 6 feet away from each other in classes. Although there may not be many solutions to this issue, many other COVID guidelines are being strictly enforced. Ana Pardo ‘24 explains “I feel safe in school because people always have their masks up and the faculty will implement that rule if they see someone not following it. I feel the consequences for someone not following the rule are appropriate also.” After asking both the teachers and students who they believe is more exposed more in a normal day at school, everyone’s answers were extremely similar. People believe that students are more exposed than the teachers on a daily basis. The students are seeing up to 20 different other kids every class period and using up to 8 different classrooms a day, unlike teachers who mostly stay in the same room all day. 

The collective thought amongst many of the students and faculty is that Wilmington Friends is doing its best to enforce all the necessary protocols and rules. The teachers and administrators are doing their very best to try and keep everyone safe, however it is expected that not all students will follow the rules 100 percent of the time. The faculty is extremely outnumbered, so in situations like lunch and break, some students may be following the “no talking without masks” rule while others will not. After hearing about many situations in Upper School, I decided to stretch these concerns to what’s happening in Middle School. Megan Hegenbarth, Middle School, Science and Math Teacher,  explains one major difference in Middle School from High School. “The students in Middle School have done a very good job with following the rules, especially of the silent lunches. We told them to be silent, and they are silent. None of them feel the need to push their luck. The sixth graders wouldn’t know any better and the seventh and eighth graders have seen what happens when someone is not following the rules.”This is sadly inevitable like many other situations. 

However, there is a positive in this situation. Many teachers will soon be able to receive the vaccine. Some may think that after one were to get the vaccine they would be more relaxed about following the safety precautions. This is not the case for the faculty members of Wilmington Friends School. Erica Childs, Upper School math teacher, explains, “I don’t see myself changing any of my behaviors after receiving the vaccine and coming into school. I am not going to feel (like I am) no longer vulnerable to the virus, and I want to continue to help others stay safe.”