New school year, new COVID-19 policies



As the school year settles in and students return to classes, a question arises – what do COVID protocols at Gloucester High School look like now that case rates are dropping? 

With people 12 and up being eligible for the vaccine and around 56 percent of students at GHS being vaccinated in some capacity according to Gloucester Public Schools, case rates are on a decline and the community is becoming safer. 

However, with the threat of the Delta variant sending us back into another full-scale crisis and herd immunity remaining a future goal, some restrictions must remain in place.

GHS has kept the indoor mask mandate in place, but masks are no longer required outdoors. Those who need a mask break are allowed to step into the hallway and the band program has received permission to play wind instruments without masks. Otherwise, masks are required at all times inside the school and on all public school transportation. 

Administration has announced that the mandate will definitely remain in place until October 1st, after which, it is up in the air as to whether it will be lifted. “Our district has made no decision at this time,” Principal James Cook said.  “There’s no saying that we will, there’s no saying that we won’t.”

Free masks are being provided to those who do not have one, and many teachers have been enforcing correct mask wearing in classrooms. 

Students are exempt from wearing masks during lunchtime, and there are now more places to eat, so the 800+ school population is spread out. Students have 3 options for lunch – they may eat in the auditorium, the cafeteria, or on the softball field when the weather permits. 

In the auditorium and cafeteria, seats are spaced out and labeled with QR codes that students scan with their phones. This brings students to a survey that asks where you’re eating, to ensure that anyone in close contact with a COVID case can be notified. 

First thing in the morning, students are expected to fill out a checklist survey that asks if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID. The list includes common symptoms like coughing, headaches, and shortness of breath, and students who say they are experiencing any or many of the symptoms on the list may be contacted by the school nurse. This survey is one of the protocols that have been carried over from last year. 

Although classes themselves look different this year, some restrictions have eased and classes can operate more normally. All students will be in person in the classroom full time. Desks are still recommended to be spaced, though it is not mandatory. Sanitizing the desks after each class is no longer a requirement. 

The one-way hallway rule has also been revoked, so students can move freely throughout the school without worrying about physical distancing. 

“Not having to follow the arrows makes getting to class much easier,” junior Annika Nyborg said. “I’m also happy we get to work in groups again. I don’t like having to wear a mask, but I understand why we need to have them.”