Sidwell Should Loosen COVID-19 Restrictions

This September marks a return to normalcy at Sidwell, unrestricted by the regulations of the pandemic. Although last year began a shift to a more traditional learning environment, the shift was disrupted by constantly shifting mask regulations. As a result, many students are hopeful for fewer COVID-19 regulations in the coming year.

Sidwell should continue to follow guidelines from the DC Department of Health, as well as the Office of the School Superintendent of Education. Currently, these regulations do not require routine screenings for COVID-19 and only mandate masks in the case of a community outbreak. Sidwell should not reinstate a mask mandate, given the burden it has on the overall morale of the school. A mask mandate would strain social events and interactions, which are critical to building new relationships and fostering a sense of community. Because masks hinder communication and connection, the social burden caused by a mask mandate would outweigh its actual medical benefits; a mandate would overstep current guidelines, as the CDC no longer recommends masks for educational institutions, exempting the case of a local outbreak.

The only time Sidwell should adopt a mask mandate is in the case of a major spike in COVID-19 cases within the community. However, Sidwell should remain mask-optional, allowing students to decide based on their individual comfort level.

Sidwell should continue to allow access to hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitizing stations, which constitute a vital component in preventing the spread of the virus. If a student tests positive, they should still be required to conduct a five-day isolation period. Sidwell’s system of quarantine and the reporting of positive cases should remain the same as the 2021-2022 school year to help keep the community protected and informed.

Although Sidwell should only employ minor COVID-19 regulations, this does not mean students and faculty will be put at higher risk of contracting the virus. The school’s pre-existing countermeasures, such as air filtration and regular cleaning, are sufficient protection for the community, and there is no need for layered strategies.

If cases spike or a new strain emerges, new precautions may be necessary. However, it is critical that students are able to fully experience and enjoy their time at school without unnecessary restrictions, while still maintaining the safety of the community as Sidwell’s top priority. In consideration of the current situation, as well as DC Health Department guidelines, it is best for Sidwell to employ minimal COVID-19 regulations, allowing students to finally return to a sense of normalcy.