Now is not the time: Transitioning to a five-day schedule is too risky

Kate Ward, Takeover Opinions Editor

As we near the end of the first semester, discussions of what the second semester will look like are becoming more tangible. The school district still holds that we will be going back five days a week at the start of the second semester, despite steep increases in cases of COVID-19 in Manhattan.

A five-day schedule would look significantly different than the current hybrid schedule. There would no longer be two groups of students, which was made to limit possible spread. The cleaning and sanitation currently done on Wednesdays would have to stop. And classes would double in size, limiting the amount of social distancing possible in class. 

Despite these changes, many look forward to a five-day schedule for the normal school day it allows. 

It’s undeniable that many students who have been struggling in hybrid and remote learning would benefit from a change to a more traditional learning environment. Students would also likely benefit socially, finally being able to see their friends five days a week and not being separated by groups. Both sides considered, it can be said that a five-day schedule would definitely shake things up.

However, it is the agreement of The Mentor Editorial Board that a hybrid schedule should be carried over to the second semester.

The ideal schedule would be five days a week, but considering the hundreds testing positive in Manhattan recently, a compromise of the ideal seems like the safest option for students and staff alike. 

There are a few key reasons why a hybrid schedule is the best option currently, one of those being the previously mentioned spike in cases. In the first week of December, in Riley County alone there were over 400 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a general rise in cases all over the state and country. On top of this already-large increase, the holidays are drawing near, meaning people will be traveling and spreading the virus. Based on the millions who traveled for Thanksgiving this year, the country will be seeing dramatic spikes after the holidays — not an ideal time to transition to a riskier school schedule.

Another key reason for supporting a hybrid schedule coming into the second semester, is that we want to avoid a situation where the school district is forced to transition to completely online learning like last spring. Right now, it’s best to be careful with the increase in cases, and hope that an exercise of caution and the new vaccine will allow everyone to return to a five-day schedule in time for the end of the year.

Accepting the fragility of the current situation is hard for many. Students and their families have been struggling with learning, childcare and mental health during this first semester, which has led many to advocate for a five-day schedule. And while these students and families’ problems are real and difficult, it’s important to not let caution fatigue cloud our judgement and rush into abandoning the current hybrid schedule — which has largely succeeded in preventing spread in school.

With all of the above considered, it’s clear that now is not the time for a drastic shift to a five-day schedule throughout the USD 383 school district. The current plan for the upcoming semester should be to maintain the hybrid schedule, embrace the long awaited COVID-19 vaccine upon its release and exercise caution in hopes that by the end of the year it will be time for a five-day schedule.