As‌ ‌the‌ ‌Pandemic‌ ‌Moves‌ ‌on,‌ ‌Here’s‌ ‌How‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌Holding‌ ‌up‌ ‌

Shrikar Lekkala, Reporter

Congrats Pioneers, we are maneuvering safely through a pandemic and holding up well. Our COVID numbers show the level of respect we have for our peers and faculty as we are excited for our first full year back from the pandemic.

Principal Andrea Markert was ecstatic to announce that we have only had four COVID cases since August 2021 and they have all come from an out-of-school source. 

“I am so proud of our students, faculty, and staff for their respect to our COVID policy,” Markert said. “We currently have an 88.6% vaccination rate, which puts us at herd immunity, so we are moving towards what it takes to be safe as a school.”

School nurse Shelly Thomas, who primarily works at Metcalf during the day, acknowledged the importance of compliance with current COVID policies in order to keep COVID cases low. 

“We are doing great, but the pandemic is not over yet. Everyone is complying with the rules very well right now, but remember to keep your masks up and keep a 2-3 feet distance from your peers to stay safe,” Thomas said. “With the introduction of the vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds [on October 29th], our campus will become a little more safe as well.”

An added piece of motivation to follow these policies is the boosted morale of students when in-person. Fewer restrictions and the ability to see their friends is particularly special for this years’ seniors, who have not gone through a full year of high school since their freshman year. 

Senior Logan Turner epitomizes the revitalized social atmosphere running through the hallways.  

“Being in person has made a drastic change on the environment in my classes. While online, people seem so distant and not engaged,” Turner said. “I think people are so excited to be back in class that there is no moment free of talking.”

Markert said that she has also observed an increase in classroom participation this year compared to any year before. 

“More students are excited to be in person and that is translating to active learning,” Markert said. 

However, Turner disagrees with Markert that classroom participation is universal. 

“In classes with teachers super strict on the mask mandate, I have noticed that students don’t talk as much since they are worried about their mask falling down,” Turner said.

Thomas also reflected on how COVID policies affect learning.

“Obviously there is a factor that the student cannot read the teacher’s facial expressions and sometimes will get lost in a lecture,” Thomas said. 

Turner agrees. 

“Masks can be extremely distracting, especially during P.E. Having to pull my mask up every 30 seconds makes it difficult to be 100% focused,” Turner said. “Not only that, but teachers constantly telling students to pull up masks takes away from learning time.” 

While many students want to forego masks in school, they remain a state-mandated requirement. Markert stresses that students must wear them due to the weight they hold. 

“The state is making these decisions [in reference to masks]. Arguing about it to ISU will not change anything,” Markert said. “We are doing great right now and I urge our students to continue persevering through the year.”

While we are doing great as a school to stay safe, there is still more we can do.

As absurd as it may seem to our thriving school, the possibility of going remote still exists as we have seen Olympia and other close-proximity schools being forced into online schooling because of rising COVID cases.

“I understand students’ masks fall accidentally, but I would like to not have to ask 100 students to pick up their masks every day,” Markert said. “However, we are getting better.”

Another piece of motivation for the student body to follow COVID protocols is to return to beloved traditions. Mr. U-High and the Homecoming Pep Rally were different in order to follow COVID protocols, but hope remains for a traditional 2022 Class Night. And students are not the only ones holding out hope.

“I hope that if everything goes well, we will be able to experience a Class Night where all of our students will get to sit in Stroud,” Markert said.

For now, Class Night is about six months off. Six months where students need to persist through ongoing hard adjustments. 

“I think it is important to really go to the basics of why we are doing all of this,” Thomas said. “We experienced online learning, and I think no one loved that. Now, we are in-person and have seen the social benefits. Now we have the opportunity to do all that we can to make it stay this way. ”