Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Students Struggle with School Guidelines as Omicron Spreads



Although online school might’ve been hard, it protected the health of students’ and their families in these trying times. Photo courtesy of HaticeEROL.

Last Friday, the entirety of the Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) was sent an email by the new acting superintendent, Dr. Daniel Presley. His email addressed the widespread worries of the Omicron variant, highlighting the district’s policies. In summary, he writes that the district understands the troubles students are already experiencing only a week and a half into school, but will remain firm on their protocols. 

Protocols that haven’t seemed to be providing much relief to students as case numbers go up and more are missing their vital classroom time. Protocols that don’t apply to the crowded school hallways littered with maskless students that travel all around campus throughout the day. Protocols that force the students who do report COVID-19 to the school to stay at home for ten days without the ability to do online school. 

It puts so many students in between a rock and a hard place as they are required in an environment that is spreading Omicron but will be thrown behind in school if they get sick. This only adds unnecessary stress to students’ already busy lives as they now have to worry about the spring semester and COVID-19 at the same time. 

As one of the students who has to remain at home for ten days without little to no resources for online schooling, I have found it incredibly difficult to agree with RRISD anymore. At this point, I have tried my best to keep up with the course work while worrying about the make-up tests and quizzes I have to take once I am allowed back. My teachers have been wonderful supports, but I can’t be their only student out, not to mention all of those still in class with them. 

It’s an unfortunate situation that could be avoided by allowing hybrid classes. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it’d be the most manageable as many students must now stay home. At this point, it’s hard to say that Omicron won’t spread. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that cloth masks are the least protective against COVID-19 and many counties now in stage five, operating a full capacity school in safety is impossible. 

This is not to say that RRISD is completely at fault here. Sure, the mask requirement on campus should be upheld more often and passing periods should be more spaced out. But there is only so much that the district can do to help when it comes to the state’s laws. 

Unfortunately, current education laws prohibit the District from switching to delivering instruction virtually.” Dr. Presley said. The state of Texas caps the number of virtual students to no more than 10 percent of a district’s enrollment and also prohibits districts from compelling teachers to teach hybrid classes.” 

It is laws such as these that hinder our education, that put students in situations where they have to choose between their health or their education. We pride ourselves in America with access to public schooling and safe environments for children, don’t we? We must either enforce stricter social distancing and mask guidelines or shut schools down. It’s the only way to keep us safe in this new year.