Exchanging School Safety for Pandemic Safety

Are schools sacrificing important safety measures in order to maintain social distancing and Covid restrictions?

Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

Are schools sacrificing important safety measures in order to maintain social distancing and Covid restrictions?

To say that this school year is different than usual is an understatement. From masks to online WebEx classes, there are significant deviations from the usual routine at LHS. Yet, changes pertaining to safety have been made that students may not have considered.

Prior to this school year, only one set of exterior doors, the main front entrance, was accessible to people entering the high school. Now, there are two sets of doors open for entering and exiting the building: the library entrance and the gym entrance. This was done to accommodate social distancing. The necessity of crowd dispersion during a pandemic is apparent, but the policy of only using one entrance was enforced for a reason. Having fewer entrances into a school building has been cited as a way to reduce the threat of school shootings. Scott Hare, the vice president of the security firm Armored One, said, “We absolutely recommend a single-point of entry for schools.” Is the trade-off of sacrificing some safety measures to maintain social distance worth it?

Another change related to safety is the elimination of full lockdown drills. Currently, for such drills, students sit quietly at their desks to practice a pseudo-lockdown. The standard lockdown drill procedure is for students to leave their seats and gather in a corner of the classroom where they cannot be seen from the door. The purpose of lockdown drills is to prepare for the worst-case scenario: having an active shooter within the building. However, practicing this drill as was done in the past is now a procedure that violates social distancing.

Assistant Principal Matthew Sarosy commented, “While we have had to alter some of our safety procedures, like how we practice lockdown drills, I am confident that the staff knows what to do in the event of a real emergency. The students’ major responsibility in any emergency is to cooperate with the instructions being given by a teacher or staff member. I understand the priority right now is social distancing, but in a real emergency, that would not be the case. The staff understands this and are well versed in how to handle an actual emergency,” he added.

Some students are concerned about the changed safety measures. Junior Emily Paladino said, “In past years, LHS emphasized keeping the building secured. With an open campus, it is extremely important that building access is limited to students, staff, and approved visitors. I think that lockdown drills should still emulate the way an actual lockdown would occur.” Senior Sophia DeMonte commented, “I think it is important that there is security that is monitoring both entrances in the school.”

LHS is working to maintain its usual safety protocols while also protecting students from the spread of COVID-19. As long as students keep in mind that social distancing is not the first priority in the case of an actual emergency, they can remain safe as they try to continue to learn through this difficult time.