After a middle school faculty member tested positive for COVID-19 and Scarsdale schools closed for eight days as a precautionary measure, students are processing how the days off will affect the future school year and the potential for lost educational opportunities.
“As a junior, I’m very worried about how this will affect the third quarter marking period, oftentimes the most stressful and important quarter during the school year,” said Genie Enders, a Scarsdale High School upperclassman. “This closure, I think, will have much more of an impact than just a week and a half at home.”
Enders also worried about the announcement about pre-college tests. SAT testing was scheduled to take place March 14, but on Thursday, all SAT testing centers closed around Westchester and the tri-state. The College Board is notifying students individually with regard to the status of their upcoming examinations, but many students, like Enders, have not yet received word about new test dates.
“Considering that the last test was offered way back in December, the March test was going to be the first test in a while,” said Enders, adding that she and many other students had devoted a lot of time studying for the exam. “An end to the pandemic does not appear to be close.”
Some students understand why the school needed to close, but they are also jostling with how they could make the most out of their time off. Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman advised students and families to refrain from gathering in large groups as “social distancing” could prove to help stop the virus from spreading.
“I think it is smart to try to minimize contact amongst students and faculty, but the reality is that students will interact with each other no matter what,” said senior Jocelyn Lewis. “On a more personal note, I’m going to be really bored.”
The district sent out messages to encourage students to “spend time engaging in passion-driven learning activities and use the time to engage in reading for pleasure” while it designed plans for remote e-learning, which started March 12 and is supposed to be fully in place by Monday, March 16.
Senior Chloe Thomas said the school’s closing was “a much needed break” and that although the virus had affected other communities, she had personally not been affected.
For students of all ages, this unexpected time off resulted in a lot more screen time, whether for online school assignments or simply for communicating with friends. For some, the unstructured time could be painstakingly bland. But Fox Meadow Elementary School fourth grader Megan Messerle said she’s spending this so-called “Corona break” hanging out with her sisters and FaceTiming her friends.
“Not having school makes me feel a little bored but I like having free time to do things I like,” she said.
As the first week off drew to a close, the spread of the virus did not seem to be slowing. More and more schools, including colleges and universities, continued to shut down, many for the rest of their school year.
“It’s really put this global pandemic into perspective and has brought it into our reality,” said senior Ari Sontag. “It’s really easy to lose sight of the realism of these dangers when they’re just in the news so its direct effect on our community has brought a sense of panic to me and others around me.”
Sontag added that the closing was “just the tip of the iceberg of this panic” and that he was “really just in a bit of shock that this is actually going on.”
The disorganization and disruption brought on by COVID-19 has also taken a toll on younger students like one Scarsdale Middle School eighth grader who was under quarantine. (His name withheld for privacy.)
“It is scary,” he said, “I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world, but it’s pretty bad.” He admitted to feeling anxious about the effect that COVID-19 will pose for friends and family and for the community. He stressed that the school closure seemed necessary to stop the virus from spreading, based on how contagious it has proven to be in other areas around Westchester and the world.
“I definitely feel much safer away from a very public building, and although the virus doesn’t really threaten the lives of people our age, I had been nervous about transmitting it to other high-risk individuals,” said senior Spencer Sheppe. “I had recently spent time with someone now in quarantine so I definitely feel more comfortable now knowing that I’m less likely to spread the virus to others at school. The break also gives me time to relax and explore new passions.”