Written by Ben Gordon, Kasumi Wade and Tiffany Yu
With the recent increase in proliferation of COVID-19 leading to its classification as a pandemic, more and more of the populace is growing weary, taking more safety precautions than ever before. This new strain of the coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019, first existed in animals, but was eventually transmitted to humans. While there are already two preexisting strains of the coronavirus— SARS, identified as early as 2002, and MERS, identified in 2012— the novel strain proves to be the most dangerous, multiplying at alarming, exponential rates- similar to the rate at which influenza spreads, but with a higher mortality rate.
As of March 13, all schools in the state of Florida are closed until at least March 30. Preparing for the introduction of possible online classes, the district has released a device needs survey for parents. If Sarasota County schools are closed for an extended period, the survey will help determine which students may need internet access or computer devices. The survey can be found here: www.sarasotacountyschools.net/deviceneedssurvey
According to Kelsey Whealey, the Sarasota County Schools Media Relations Specialist, over 1,000 parents had filled out the survey as of March 13.
In an email, Whealey explained the county’s possible next steps.
“We do not have any way of predicting how COVID-19 will spread in our community yet. That is why our school district is working so closely with the Department of Health to keep track of updates. The school district will take direction from the Florida Department of Education and the Department of Health,” Whealey said.
The outlook for Sarasota County Schools, in addition to Pine View families and their businesses, is uncertain. Aside from financial impacts, three cases have been confirmed in Sarasota County, to including out-of-state residents, according to the Florida Department of Health. The virus, even at Pine View, has proven to be a signifiant dilemma for teachers and students alike.
Margaret Higgins, a foreign language teacher at Pine View, planned a visit to South Korea for Spring Break. Higgins was signed up for the U.S. Department of State’s newsletter when she received an alarming message: all nonessential travel to Korea and all surrounding regions in Asia was banned. She had been anticipating the trip for months, but was forced to cancel. Traveling to Korea would not only put herself at risk, but more importantly, in her words, her students.
“I was going with a friend of mine that I’ve known since high school. She didn’t want to cancel, but I was like, I can’t be at risk for being put in quarantine, or coming back and spreading coronavirus. I can’t go,” Higgins said.
Higgins didn’t have many personal concerns regarding potentially dealing with the virus, seeing as the coronavirus mainly affects older individuals, but prioritizing the health of her students and the Pine View community, she ultimately decided not to take the chance.
Harris Lichtenstein, Pine View graduate and student at Washington University in St. Louis, will stay in Sarasota for the remainder of the spring semester after his classes were cancelled.
“I am extremely disappointed at losing out on half a semester at WashU with all my friends…but I understand why the university has made this choice, and ultimately support it,” Lichtenstein said.
Some schools, like Washington University, are reimbursing dorm and meal plan costs to students. Tuition will not be reimbursed, as classes will be transferred online.
“We will most likely use that money to get a temporary car while I’m at home, so I can get a part time job,” Lichtenstein said. “So, I may actually see a net decrease in costs.”
Back at Pine View’s campus, BuildOn, which promotes education by building schools in developing countries, discovered that their trek to Nepal had been cancelled as a result of the outbreak. The decision, however, was not in the club’s hands.
“Our trip was cancelled based on a couple of things. BuildOn made the decision to cancel the trek…the Nepalese government decided they were banning all large group gatherings… the methodology of BuildOn is that we all come together. That’s the nature of what we do…we all come together to work,” The sponsor of BuildOn, Summer Grantham, said.
Mia Hanes, a member of BuildOn, has not lost hope for the new school.
“After the outbreak settles around the world, our community will meet with BuildOn employees to break ground and begin the construction of their new school,” Hanes said.
Since the cancellation of BuildOn’s trek, additional planned field trips have been cancelled for Pine View students. Futures Business Leaders of America (FBLA) club was minutes from departing Pine View for Orlando for a conference when they received word of its cancellation. Pine View Journalism students were scheduled to attend the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) conference March 17, but concerns of the growing severity of the outbreak in New York lead to its cancellation.
Despite an increase in anxieties surrounding the virus, the best methods of prevention still remain simple. According to the World Health Organization, the best way to prevent spread is to “regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.” Also, maintain at least 3 feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Featured image provided by Mike Ellis