Editorial: Left in the dark

Students and staff wait for news on the recent COVID-19 surge

Throughout the three school years that we have been enduring COVID-19, only one thing has remained consistent, and that is the lack of consistency. Now, with cases experiencing an intense rise, we are once again left uncertain of what to expect.
The rise of COVID-19 cases and several of our neighboring schools closing again leaves MSDLT students and teachers wondering about what measures our district will be taking to combat the new surge. Students and teachers alike have awaited some sort of official response or plan of action from the district, which still has not been received.
When COVID-19 first forced Lawrence Township to turn to virtual schooling in March 2020, adjusting was the hardest part for everyone. It made apparent the various roles that school plays in the daily lives of students outside of just education. Some kids depend on school for two out of the three meals of the day, and some require school as an escape from an unideal home environment. If we are to return to virtual schooling for a designated amount of time, a warning is needed. People need time to prepare for that worst case scenario. Playing a guessing game of what is going to happen with school, and theorizing with classmates on how much longer until we’re attending class over Zoom again is not something that we should have to resort to.
However, it would not be fair to say that the district has handled response and communication poorly as we have undergone the pandemic. Lawrence Township has provided several resources to combat the pandemic, including vaccination sites, free and reduced lunch, and KN-95 masks. Countless students and staff have benefited from these things, and it shows the care and concern that LT still feels and the priority that they are still taking with COVID-19. This should be taken into consideration when we criticize the district for what feels like a lack of transparency, when in reality it is a lack of certainty on their part.
After dealing with COVID-19 for almost two years, our knowledge on the pandemic and our experience with learning how to live with it have both grown immensely. With that in mind, it makes sense as to why Lawrence Township is not resorting to shutting down schools. Reactions to outbreaks and case-surges do not have to be as drastic as they once were.
“We have so much more information. We have more tools at our disposal. We have vaccinations. COVID-19 is becoming something that we’re learning to live with, and becoming something that we are learning to be more proactive with, providing testing clinics and providing vaccination sites for families. Things other than just watching the positivity rate, which we obviously do, but it’s; ‘Here’s the information we have, and here’s what we need to do to keep our students in school,'” Dr. Dana Altemeyer, the Communications Director for Lawrence Township, said.
Even though there are other districts who have gone virtual due to the Omicron variant, it really may not be necessary for us. It can be trusted that LT has enough resources and insight on the virus and the state of our school regarding it to be able to make decisions that benefit and are the best for everyone.
“At the end of the day, we’re education experts, we’re not medical experts. So we’ve really relied on the guidance from the health department since day one, and they’ve been awesome partners in helping us communicate timely information with our parents when it comes to COVID,” Altemeyer said.
Lawrence Township is known for being persistent on staying open while other school districts close, whether it be for snow, construction, or the pandemic. Some have speculated that this may be the cause again for our schools staying open. If the district is working closely with the county health department to make important decisions, then we believe that it is safe to say that the decision to stay open is reliable. This includes learning to adjust with the district, skepticism aside, when the everchanging CDC guidelines are implemented and removed from our school system.
In the future, what would be best for students, parents, teachers, and all members of Lawrence Township would be complete transparency on the processes and decision making in regards to COVID-19. The world’s entire experience with the pandemic has been to expect the unexpected, and to be prepared for any scenario. We think that it is safe to say that everyone is constantly wary of what the next major change could be. Clear communication as we continue to face this pandemic is what would be in the best interest for the whole Lawrence Township community.