West Hartford Schools Close Amid COVID-19 Concerns
By: Ethan Mathieu
WEST HARTFORD - West Hartford has recently joined its neighboring districts in Connecticut and across the United States in closing its schools.
The decision proves that the threat COVID-19 poses is larger than anyone truly imagined. The virus, which originated in an animal market in Wuhan, China, is officially a pandemic, having reached every permanently inhabited continent.
COVID-19’s recent classification has forced the world to make difficult choices in order to bring about its defeat. One of those decisions is how to treat large gatherings of people, namely school.
School is a conduit for disease spread. Children (as a group) are not known for their...superb hygiene. In class, students are mere feet apart and share multiple common surfaces. While it is true that younger people are less affected by the symptoms of COVID-19, barring infants and toddlers, infected students could bring the disease back home to their older parents and grandparents.
Closing schools is not a decision that a superintendent makes lightly. There are numerous factors that must be considered. Teacher contracts dictate a date that they will not teach past. The state itself mandates 180 days in school and although that requirement has since been waived, it is still something that districts would rather adhere to. Many students also rely on school to provide them stable access to breakfast and lunch.
Multiple questions have also been raised regarding how the lost time will affect class performance. The College Board, as of now, does not plan to shift the date of AP Exams. This means that AP classes, effectively, lose weeks of teaching; Standard and Honors classes get the benefit of time added at the end of the year. While West Hartford does plan to employ long-distance teaching, the system is untried. As a result, West Hartford could be in school as late as June 30th, marking the longest school year since the October Snowstorm of 2010.
The week before the West Hartford district closed saw a great “purge” of school events. Conard’s Spring Musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, was tragically stopped in the middle of its run. Academic olympiads were outright cancelled while spring sports and other school-sponsored extracurricular activities have grinded to a halt, their fate up in the air.
COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our way of life. Only as a united community can we ride this wave of uncertainty.