COVID effects ongoing one year later

Brendan Heilman, Clubs Reporter

Katelyn Young and Sydney Miller wear masks during newspaper class. Duncan Public Schools passed a mask mandate before the start of the school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Presley Sanders)

The effects of the year 2020 are still begin felt, and the world my never go completely back to normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact has lasted for more than a year now, as masks, social distancing and hand sanitizers have become standard practice. Now, many people across the world are getting the COVID vaccine to help put an end to the spread of the virus.

According to CNN, as of Wednesday, 31.3 million Americans have gotten the COVID-19 virus, and about 563,000 people in the United States have died from the virus.

At Duncan Middle School, students and teachers were affected by COVID.

At the start of the school year, whenever a positive case appeared for a student or faculty member, the Stephens County Department of Health had to do contact tracing. Whoever the positive person came in contact with was at risk for exposure and had to be quarantined.

The Duncan Board of Education passed measures to improve student and teacher safety, including a mask mandate. At the state level, neither the State of Oklahoma nor the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a mask mandate, leaving it as a local decision. The City of Duncan did not pass a mask mandate, unlike other larger cities, including Lawton, which is 40 miles east of Duncan.

Jill Bates, seventh-grade social studies teacher, said there were plenty of people who didn’t take precautions to keep themselves and others safe during the pandemic.

“People are being very unsafe during the pandemic, and no amount of detention has been able to fix them,” Bates said.

In all, a small number of students were positive in Duncan Public Schools, but hundreds of students were quarantined. When they quarantined, they had to stay away from people and away from school for two weeks before being allowed to return with the all-clear from the Stephens County Health Department.

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Duncan Middle School also saw a lot of students start the school year through virtual learning. Although numerous students are still virtual, many have returned to in-person learning.

The pandemic hit Duncan Middle School hard in March 2020. Students left for Spring Break and they never returned. School moved to distance learning for the last quarter of the school year.

But with precautions in place, this school year started and has remained in-person.

Still there are some struggles with those precautions. Temperatures are taken and masks are checked before students ever enter the building. But many students neglect or forget to bring masks, and some masks have broken or torn.

Plus, some people find it a daily struggle to keep masks above their noses.

Because of contact tracing, seating charts were required of all teachers this year. Teachers were required to submit new seating charts every time students were moved or new students were added to a class. With many students returning from virtual, this became a frequent chore for teachers.

Band is also a struggle for all grades. The quarantines have affected concerts and competitions, and in school quarantine has been hard for band kids who play wind instruments.

But things have continued to move forward with safety remaining an important goal at Duncan Middle School.

Water fountains were updated to fill water bottles instead students drinking directly from the fountains. Masks are required of anyone who enters the building. Hand sanitizer is present in every classroom.

The students have a job to do during this pandemic: to stay safe.