Students fear contracting COVID-19 during face-to-face instruction

Based on the return back to face-to-face instruction, students share their opinion on the subject.


Kamika Helsel

School is now in session! Juniors Alexis Benden and Ariana Brewer complete work on Chromebooks as their teacher teaches class virtually.

Kamika Helsel, Reporter

Nov. 12 made it the first in-person school day at the Altoona Area High School (AAHS) for junior and senior high students. The sophomores and freshman returned the following day on Nov. 13.

Most students of AAHS are attending school based on a hybrid model. Many guidelines and precautions have been put in place to prevent any students or staff from being in direct contact with this virus, but students still fear their safety.

Senior Piper Vallei feels that herself, including her peers are going to contract it, regardless of the guidelines.

“We are all going to get it one way or another. Today, tomorrow or five years down the road,” Vallei said.

An emergency school board meeting has been set for Nov. 24 to discuss Covid-19.

“My biggest concern with face-to-face instruction is getting shut down again. I am one of the students who struggle tremendously with online. I feel that it is draining my education, and I’m not getting the education I need with sitting at home on the computer all day. It’s just as easy to log into homeroom and go back to bed for the rest of the day, or skip an assignment or just not do anything at all without teacher motivation,” Vallei said.

The district has enforced precautions such as six feet social distancing and the constant use of masking.

“Students are still very close together in classrooms and hallways, also in the lunch rooms. Most don’t follow the six foot rule [and] we also don’t wear masks during that [lunch] time. My biggest fear is everyone getting sick and the education process getting delayed because of that,” junior Navaeh Brubaker said.

Every student’s temperature is checked upon entering the building.

“I don’t feel the high school is following all the COVID-19 rules as we were all in one room, every single student [juniors and seniors] with no social distancing,” junior Noah Mussleman said.

For senior Cassie Runk; however, she has noticed that most students and teachers have been following the masking and social distancing guidelines enforced by the school.

“Social distancing with students hasn’t been that bad. Everyone pretty much sits where they need to be especially in lunch,” Runk said.

Students health and safety has always been the districts first concern, but in this case teachers also risk contracting the virus.

“Students are most likely [to contract the virus] because of some of our sheer ignorance,” Mussleman said.

Senior Minya Strobel says she does not feel completely safe from COVID-19.

“I don’t feel completely safe from COVID-19 in our learning environment and am thinking about going back to the Altoona Cyber Academy,” Strobel said.

However, some in-person students feel differently, believing the school is doing as good of a job as they possibly can during these times.

“They [the school] made a smart decision splitting us up into groups because the amount of people in classes are a lot smaller which makes it more manageable,” Runk said.

Although many do follow the mandatory precautions, some believe the school should go further in their efforts, specifically with the masks.

“I think a lot of people are wearing their masks and social distancing. I don’t really like the face shields though. They should enforce just these [fabric masks],” senior Caden McMaster said.

Students have been given an option to remain in the virtual setting or to return to face-to-face instruction on a hybrid model.

“I feel like we will definitely have cases in our school eventually because it is inevitable since we aren’t following all the guidelines,” Strobel said.

The cooperation for every student is needed, especially considering the rise in cases.

Attendance Director Patty Sauka spoke with a local UPMC Cardiologist a few days previous.

“He informed me that UPMC [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center] Altoona currently has 80 COVID-19 patients. That is more than any other UPMC hospital, even Pittsburgh,” Sauka said.