Why I waited to go back to school

Joy Hu, Guest Writer

Editor’s note: Hu wrote this column in early September. She has since decided to return to campus.

I want to go back to school. I want to go back to school so badly. Even after all is said and done (and teachers and faculty have done A LOT for distance learning—thank you!), learning over Zoom just isn’t the same as being in person.

All I want is to sneak candy from Ms. Chu’s room in between classes, banter with my friends on the benches outside the dining hall during lunch, swaddle myself in our advisory blanket and devour handfuls of Goldfish every day. I want to lie on the green grass in the amphitheater. I want to walk through the hall and wave from afar at my little sis. Even with everything and everyone six feet apart and behind masks and Plexiglass, I would still prefer to be on campus. The changes and precautions will be irritating, sure, but at the end of the day, I think safety overrules convenience. Which is why I’m staying on distance learning.

Let’s say I go to school. Somebody slips up. Their mask slides under their nose, or the disinfectant doesn’t reach everywhere, or some other innocuous accident takes place. That person might be in the incubation stage of the disease, where they can spread it to other people before exhibiting symptoms themselves. They might be an asymptomatic case, contagious but symptom-free. No matter the cause, tiny virus-laden droplets get launched into the air. I am likely wearing a cloth mask or a surgical mask, which stops me from raining my own pathogens everywhere, but it cannot protect me from inhaling other people’s germs. I breathe in the virus, and I contract the illness.

First it spreads to my parents, the people in my household who are in close contact with me every day and night. From there, it passes to my grandmother, who gets her groceries from us every week because her nursing home is on lockdown. Once inside, the virus would wreak havoc there. Basically, if I contracted the disease at school, I would spread it to many, many more people. They may not all be able to afford treatment. They may not all survive. I don’t want to hurt more people when this pandemic has already harmed so many.

Ultimately, I am staying home because I believe that my safety, my family’s safety and the safety of strangers in our community outweighs sleeping on a couch in my free period or snacking between classes. Is my convenience worth the lives and well-being of so many others? I don’t think so.

There are people in my family who are especially vulnerable to COVID—not just the disease itself, but also the terrifying complications that can result. How could I analyze a short story, reason through a problem set or write my college application essays if a loved one had a stroke in the hospital? What if they die? Could I afford all the opportunities college offers if we are saddled with a staggering ICU bill? Hospitals aren’t cheap, and neither are funerals. But the loss of a family member or a friend would be even more devastating. There’s no flowery language or cute turn of phrase to present that nicely. Somebody I care about could die.

Of course, this is only a possibility, and Hockaday has invested a lot of time and effort into reducing that possibility as much as they can. I don’t want to stay cooped up at home forever, and I don’t intend to do so. I have no doubt that eventually, it won’t be much more dangerous to be on campus than to be alone in an open field (those red wasps? Very scary). However, right now, with case counts in Dallas as high as they are, I don’t feel it is safe enough to return. Every reported illness may have untold multitudes of presymptomatic or asymptomatic infections behind it, and each of those is yet another transmission risk that might infiltrate the Hockaday community and the campus and in turn, to my family. Gambling with lives is just too risky. Therefore, I will stay home.