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Student Submits Letter to School Board

Senior Jaden Bernard sent the above letter to the School Board on March 18. The entirety of the letter is printed below. (Staff photo)

By Anne Powell & Tameia Mitchell-- Eagle Editors

As the fourth nine weeks draws closer, many students are dreading the thought of returning to a five-day school week. So much so, that senior Jaden Bernard decided to write a letter to the school board addressing students' concerns.

Bernard posted the link to her Google Doc on Snapchat and Instagram. Within a matter of hours after posting it, almost 200 students had signed on in support.

“I hope that, at the least, they consider the concerns I listed, and at the most, they respond to them,” says Bernard.

Bernard wanted to strive for effective communication between the student body and the School Board.

“We don't communicate with them as much as we should, but the School Board is a form of government, and we have a right to a voice in it given that their decision affects us,” stated Bernard.

Within her letter Bernard voiced concerns about safety shields, senior ceremonies, after-school sports and activities, mental health, and more. Many students agreed with her, as the letter reached 174 before she removed the letter from social media.

“For the most part, the reaction was positive. A lot of people seemed to support it for their own reasons,” she said.

Bernard's letter to the Board is below.

Good evening,

My name is Jaden Bernard, and I am a senior at Franklin County High School. I am the President of the Executive Board of SCA, a member of the CHILL Board, and a current hybrid student. I am writing to you concerning the new 5-days-a-week plan for all of Franklin County Public Schools.

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your consideration of CDC guidelines and our education when making decisions on behalf of the School Board. Having representatives who we feel amplify our concerns is critical to serving the common good of Franklin County students, and we greatly appreciate you.

To my understanding, Dr. Cobbs proposed that middle and elementary school students return to five-day instruction, whereas she suggested finishing the 2020-2021 school year hybrid for high school students. This plan, as well as the originally proposed plan of four days a week, seems to be generally supported among the student body of Franklin County High School. However, there has been a more negative response to the five-day plan that is about to begin for a multitude of reasons, all of which I will express to you below.

The first and most important issue is the health and safety of both students and faculty. While a majority of teachers are now vaccinated, the same cannot be said for students. I acknowledge that the majority of us are not overly susceptible to the more severe effects of COVID-19, but those of us who suffer from autoimmune deficiencies or live with immunodeficient people are put at great risk. The idea of putting nearly 2,000 students into a high school with classrooms of varying sizes is void of science and is a risk that is not worth taking.

While safety shields are being employed, they are nearly futile. With holes at the bottom and an exposed top, air is still able to rise and thus escape. Should an asymptomatic student sneeze, cough, or even talk during lunchtime, they will release particles into the air and the whole class will still be at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Also, many students cannot see through the clouded plexiglass on the screens, thus hindering the learning experiences of many students and preventing them from concentrating fully on lectures. This would counteract, to some extent, the goal of improving students’ learning by sending them back five days a week. If we are being distracted by these devices, as well as being surrounded by other students on all sides, our learning will suffer nonetheless.

I also must tackle this issue as a senior. I met with Mr. Crutchfield a week ago, and as of now, our graduation depends completely on Governor Northam possibly lifting COVID-19 restrictions. However, with a possible outbreak at hand, our graduation and other important senior ceremonies will be at risk of being canceled. Although we have had a difficult senior year, we understand that we are not able to do many of the things that other seniors have had the opportunity to do; however, many of us have been hoping for a true graduation to conclude our high school experience. We have been willing to forego student sections, a final Homecoming dance, normal Senior nights, and possibly even a Prom, but we feel we have worked too hard for the past four years to miss out on the culmination of our high school years. A hybrid schedule would greatly minimize the risk of a sudden outbreak and increase our chances of having a proper graduation ceremony.

Although I am not an athlete, many of my peers and closest friends are. For all of the hours of tireless work, sweat, and dedication, many of them have expected to have the opportunity to prove themselves to colleges or to receive the appreciation that is due to senior athletes. Many spring athletes are at risk of losing their season altogether, and this will greatly damage opportunities for underclassmen athletes and junior athletes who are hoping to improve college prospects as well as seniors hoping to have a final season of the sport they love. With a five-day plan and the consequent potential for an outbreak, these possibilities become smaller. These athletes deserve the chance to do what they love to the safest and fullest extent.

My final concern is the mental and emotional well-being of students. At the beginning of the school year, I addressed the School Board on concerns about students’ mental health. While this year has proven strenuous and difficult for even the most motivated student, we have grown accustomed to the security and freedom afforded to us by a hybrid schedule. This schedule allows low-income students to work on the days they are not at school, and it gives students a respite from the social and intellectual hurdles they may have to jump at school. After a year of constant quarantine and social isolation, social skills have suffered, thus making it potentially catastrophic to thrust students amongst all of their peers. I worry that the anxiety and depression of my peers will be worsened if they are put at an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19 on a daily basis with no choice.

I hope that you will take these concerns into consideration. My peers and I often feel as though our voices have not been heard throughout the duration of this school year, but we recognize the importance of communicating with those who represent us in order to enact change.

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