Students navigate COVID-19 protocols for first all-in-person return since March 2020

Story by Kaitlyn Meehan, Editor-in-Chief

Students returned to East Meck on Wednesday, Aug. 25 to begin the 2021-2022 school year in person. Five days later, on Monday, Aug. 30, students got a call home stating that a student and teacher at East both tested positive for the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

While this was not unexpected, it brought many students to question the permanence of the Charlotte Mecklenburg’s School System (CMS) return to in person instruction and after school activities. At the time of publication, CMS was one of the first school districts in North Carolina to mandate masks for all qualifying students and staff. A plan has also been put in place stating that if a student or staff member is exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and they have been vaccinated and were wearing a mask at the time of exposure, with a negative COVID test they do not have to quarantine and can continue to attend school and after-school activities. 

Contrary to last year, there is now no option to return to school online. If a student believes they do not feel safe attending in-person classes, their only option is to unenroll in East Meck and begin registration for a completely online academy. There is also talk of a plan for singular schools to resort to remote learning, while others continue in-person. In the eyes of the CMS Board of Education, virtual learning is a last resort. This has stemmed from the negative feedback given from a number of students regarding the lack of focus and motivation present in online classes. 

While some schools have had multiple exposures, students from adjacent schools get letters with exposure information on it. If students have COVID, if they are in close contact with someone who does, or if they feel ill in any way, they are required to stay home and report it to the school. More than 80% of all CMS schools have reported at least one COVID case, but fewer than 10 have gone into quarantine. 

East has stripped away protocols such as one-way-hallways but have left ones like socially distanced lunches and has added a fifth lunch to the rotation in order to have fewer people in the cafeteria and courtyard at once. For the time being, there are several places open for students to each lunch including the cafeteria, the lobby directly outside, both courtyards and the hallway. Water fountains are also currently out of us in accordance with heightened janitorial practices.  

East will continue to adjust to COVID protocols and avoid any major outbreaks. Along with other schools in the district East’s mask policy and social distancing practices are set in place until further notice.