Staff Editorial – Final Year Report: Mason’s COVID response proves impressive

 This new normal has started to feel, well, just normal.

And a lot of that is thanks to an environment that was invariably supportive and adaptive despite the difficult decisions and endless opportunity cost that are bound to come with a devastating pandemic. 

Because all things considered, things could have gone much much much worse. They could’ve gone slightly better — but they could’ve gone far worse. 

In August the general sentiment was that in-person school wouldn’t last more than two weeks. This wasn’t a hard conclusion to make: neighboring schools and colleges found themselves caught in difficult situations as the amount of COVID cases was too high to keep in-person schooling. 

But somehow, Mason found a way to keep its doors open. 

Even when Mason was at its lowest, we could exactly pinpoint when that was (sometime around January) because administration was always transparent about the number of cases and quarantines afflicting students and staff.

While it was concerning to see some of the mid-year numbers reach dangerous levels, the fact that this data was never kept secret armed families with the knowledge to make safe, informed decisions about how to move forward. 

Administration had to consider some serious questions with these numbers. 

What is the worst case scenario for continuing in-person school irresponsibly? At what point does the school decide that circumstance has crossed the line of what’s acceptable? What is more important – health or education?

But it was impressive to see the efficacy of most everyone sticking to the protocol. Mask wearing was never taken lightly. Sporting events, however heartbreaking it may have been, were responsibly off the table until COVID cases fell. Remote Wednesdays limited interaction and gave students a breather to grapple with their new pandemic realities. 

And when cases rose, teachers worked to create alternate remote plans for quarantined students, a category that rose to the hundreds during the worst COVID bouts. Essentially doing twice the amount of work, they made sure that every kid had a chance to learn and keep up with their schoolwork. 

And the ones guiding and supervising online students over zoom held up their end, entering unknown territory head-on to make sure remote learners weren’t left behind. 

These teachers proved just how important interaction with humans – both in-person and virtually – stands the test of computer softwares.

It was these sort of everyday interactions and heroes around the school that reveal the strength of a community working toward a common goal. Teachers that remembered to press record before teaching a lesson so quarantined kids can watch from home. Students who powered through socially distant lunch times that were less lively and lonelier than before. Parent volunteers who did their best to create memorable experiences for seniors in replacement of the ones lost. 

The Chronicle Staff does not for a second take for granted the incredible voices and environment we get to amplify and investigate and discern each day in our stories. 

To those who struggled to overcome the zoom interface learning curve; to those who did (and continue to do) their part in social distancing and mask-wearing even when it is lonely and difficult; to those who worked hard but also tired of having to adapt for so long: we hope that this year revealed the value of a crowded stadium or loud lunchroom. 

But let’s allow ourselves look toward a post-pandemic life, thanks to the hard work of all those at Mason, where we can realistically dream of a future filled with hope and handshakes.