Quarantines on the Rise at Local Schools


Maggie Parks

The recently reinstated mask mandate for PA schools has resulted in heated discussion at TASD School Board Meetings this month.

While the country appears to be turning a corner against the pandemic, the virus is still active and impacting schools in the area.

Since Tyrone returned to full-time in-person instruction, there have been more students than ever quarantined due to a positive COVID diagnosis or close exposure to someone with the virus.

Last week the school was notified of four positive COVID cases in the district – two at the elementary school and two at the high school. Every positive case has a trickle-down effect of causing many students who sit near an infected student to be quarantined.

Most area schools have been forced to close for at least a few days because of the virus. While Tyrone has managed to keep its doors open,  it is still impacting the school community in significant ways.

CDC guidelines state that those found to be in close contact with an infected person should stay home and maintain social distancing for 10 days from the date of their last exposure, monitor themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19, including checking their temperature.

Tyrone administration has urged students to follow mask protocols and do their best to maintain as much social distancing as possible, though with full-time in-person classes everyone acknowledges that six feet of distance between students in classrooms isn’t always possible.

As quarantined students have become more common, the effects on students’ well-being have begun to be explored by social scientists.

Fear of Increased Suicide Rates

One assumption that was common early in the pandemic was that social isolation, disrupted health care, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment would lead to increased rates of suicide.

Fortunately, suicide rates during the pandemic have not increased, at least so far.

Reports from several countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Sweden, and the US—high-income countries in most cases—carry a consistent message: suicide rates have not risen.

The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal of psychiatry, said “although suicide rates might sometimes increase following these sorts of public health emergencies, the changes might not necessarily occur immediately, and that the risk might actually be reduced initially.”

Academic Impact of Quarantine

So far the biggest impact of quarantine for students seems to be academic.

“It has been really hard for me to keep my spirits up while I’m locked down at home,” said junior Mackenzie Latchford.

This sentiment is echoed by the larger student population.

“I have to teach myself some things rather than having a teacher do that for me,” said Latchford. This has the adverse effect of impacting grades.

The Brookings Institute conducted a study of over five million students and concluded that the pandemic might have a huge impact academically.

The study suggests students could lose 30% of their normal learning gains in reading from the prior year relative to a typical school year. In mathematics, students may show even smaller learning gains from the previous year, returning with less than 50% of the gains.

Impact on Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities 

In addition to academics, students are experiencing setbacks in other areas, including sports and other extracurricular activities.

“Sports are an important part of my life,” says Latchford, who has missed school and sports due to being exposed to someone with COVID at school. “I am missing some of my junior track season. It has greatly impacted me physically, I’ve been trying to stay in shape while out because it is hard to find the motivation. I have also missed three of my track meets which impact my goals and hopes for this season.”

This week the softball team had games against Penns Valley and Philipsburg postponed due to positive COVID tests at those schools.

The Bottom Line

Health experts acknowledge that quarantines and other pandemic restrictions have negative impacts, but also stress that they are necessary to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

“Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms,” states the Center for Disease Control.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important for parents, teachers, and coaches to consider the mental strain put on teenagers and try to be as understanding as possible.