Despite a rise in COVID cases, OHS protocols seem to be working

Jonny Clubb, Writer

OHS administrators have been keeping students safe by implementing various protocols (Designed by Jonny Clubb)

As Coronavirus cases continue to rise, OHS is currently in the hybrid-learning model thanks to the success of protocols in the building, as well as low case numbers in the building itself. OHS and district administration look at county numbers and track cases in the building daily to ensure the safety of all students and stop any outbreak of the virus before it can happen.

The specific numbers administrators look at are the 14-day case rate per 10,000 Steele County residents and the infection rate within our building. Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “Right now we are over the 30/10,000 limit, which is a concern of our entire county. But Steele County Public Health can look at those numbers and say, that is not being driven by an infection in schools. That is what’s keeping us able to stay in the hybrid model.”

As of Nov. 9, there have been 1,022 Coronavirus cases and four deaths in Steele County.  The 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents was 34/10,000 on Oct. 17 and 29/10,000 on Oct. 24. However, Steele County saw a surge in cases over the weekend with 64 new positives in two days. Principal Kath said, “As of right now, our indicator from Steele County Public Health is that we would get to stay in hybrid. If we continue to see cases rise, though, and that there is a higher infection rate within our building, then we would probably have to move to distance.”

OHS has had success keeping COVID-19 numbers low, just five cases over a two week period reported on Nov. 5, by diligently following all protocols and guidelines set by the CDC and MDH. Principal Kath said, “Students have been doing a great job of wearing masks. We do have to remind students to hold them up over their nose.”  Another important protocol is social distancing. Principal Kath added, “Our goal is to keep students at six feet as much as possible.” 

Whether or not masks should be required is a very controversial topic. From a student perspective sophomore Alexandria Bentley said, “I believe that masks are a necessity to keep the spread of COVID low. I don’t like wearing them, just like the next person, but I feel safer wearing one.”

I believe that masks are a necessity to keep the spread of COVID low. I don’t like wearing them, just like the next person, but I feel safer wearing one.”

— Alexandria Bentley

While hybrid and distance learning have kept students safe, it has had an effect on students’ success in the school, as well as students’ mental health. In response to a poll 39.1 percent of OHS students said they are doing worse or way worse in school now, as compared to before the pandemic. However, 25.8 percent of students said they are doing better or way better.  

A school’s most important job, aside from keeping kids safe, is helping students thrive in the classroom. Speaking on student success Principal Kath said, “I think if you ask the average student, and this is what I’ve been told by numerous students, is that the motivation level when you’re at home is tougher than when you’re sitting in your classroom.” It is both the student and teachers responsibility to ensure that the student passes the class. Principal Kath also said, “Teachers are trying their best, but yet, it requires some flexibility, and it requires the students to stay on top of a schedule that sometimes is hard for teenagers.”

I think if you ask the average student, and this is what I’ve been told by numerous students, is that the motivation level when you’re at home is tougher than when you’re sitting in your classroom.”

— Principal Kath

The pandemic has hurt students’ mental health even more, with just under half of students saying their mental health is worse now than at the start of quarantine. Principal Kath said, “I think there are definitely signs of isolation, and what some people are calling pandemic fatigue. Where students are saying, I need to be able to go hang out with some friends.  We understand that, and our hope is that students are being safe.”

This pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, especially students and teachers, but OHS has met that challenge with determination. By following all protocols, continuing to social distance and keeping an open communication between teachers and students, OHS has been able to keep kids safe while they continue to learn and grow. The school district examines county and high school case numbers, and will notify families through Infinite Campus if changes are made.