OPINION: JCPS should return back to “normal”


Photo courtesy of wave3.com

JCPS schools were under a mask mandate until just last Thursday.

Kaelin Gaydos

On March 13, 2020, JCPS experienced the unthinkable in an already abnormal time period. NTI lasted almost an entire school year and a half, which was arguably more harmful to students than it may have been helpful. In just 2020 alone, 64% of students in JCPS had at least one failing grade. 

This year marked the first March 13 in two years that students could experience normal in-person activities. It served as a bittersweet reminder, marking the anniversary of JCPS’ switch to NTI and of what was lost between those two years. 

NTI undeniably sparked a great deal of change in schools, exposing certain flaws and highlighting other key benefits. The original return back to in-person itself was riddled with COVID safety measures, such as social distancing, mask mandates and contact tracing. Not to mention either the lack of or restriction on social activities. It took some trial and error for everyone involved to figure out what worked best for safety and well-being (physically and mentally).

 COVID cases have been on the decline and JCPS has repealed some of its precautions, such as the recently lifted mask mandate. The question is, when will we be able to return to a completely normal world? What does normal even look like anymore?

There really is no good or definite answer. Some people are ready to immediately go back to the way things were before the pandemic, while others are more comfortable continuing COVID safety precautions.

We can see this disparity in opinion now more than ever since the mask mandate was lifted. Even though masks are now optional, many students and teachers still feel safer wearing them. The end of the mandate (which may be temporary) is one step JCPS is taking to return to how things were before the pandemic. 

However, there are still other policies and guidelines in place. Events like school dances and pep rallies have been modified or entirely canceled/postponed. Schools are still offering and encouraging weekly COVID testing. Students are also still supposed to be socially distanced in the classrooms and at lunch, although this isn’t as strictly enforced anymore. 

I believe that JCPS should continue down this road to what was once before. We’ve been living in a global pandemic for two years (but what seems like an eternity) and although dropping the rules and safety restrictions won’t make the virus go away, we have vaccines to protect us and masks are always an option for those who want them. Positivity rates are dropping in Jefferson County. We have an abundance of vaccinations, testing sites and more knowledge than we did before. There’s a variety of reasons why it’s acceptable to return to normal.

Many students are missing out on experiences that they want and deserve to have. Neither freshmen or sophomores at Manual have had the opportunity to attend a school dance or a normal pep rally. They just saw many of their classmates and teachers’ faces without a mask for the first time. Do you understand how impactful that’s been for everyone involved? It has allowed students and staff to bond with each other and feel more at home at school. Seeing the smiles of the people I’m closest to is definitely the highlight of my day and I’m incredibly glad that I get to feel that again. 

Pre-COVID experiences should be the standard. We should be able to go back to doing these things regularly and ensure a generation of both mentally and socially well individuals. 

Now if cases begin to rise again and another outbreak occurs, the safest option would be to return to masking and social distancing. It would make sense to fall back on these tested measures. However, we have to consider that, at large, a world without COVID will never exist. Now that it’s here, we are adapting to it, but we won’t be able to completely get rid of it. It’s the unfortunate truth for so many viruses and illnesses. Regardless, we shouldn’t live in fear of what could happen, as long as we are taking the measures to protect ourselves while still living our lives.