How Liberty is Maintaining Social Distancing

Liberty staff and students share how Liberty is enforcing social distancing during full time onsite learning.

How Liberty is Maintaining Social Distancing

On January 29th, Governor Reynolds signed a bill that gave parents the option to send their children back to school full time. Because of this bill, the ICCSD was forced to offer 100% in person learning.
With schools now being full time, it’s hard to keep students socially distanced throughout the day. According to the CDC, students and staff are at highest risk of being exposed when students interact freely between classes, freely share objects with others, and irregularly clean commonly touched areas. The Liberty staff and custodial team have worked to ensure that all safety guidelines by the CDC are being followed.
Principal Justin Colbert shared the measures Liberty is taking to keep students and staff safe.
“All health and safety guidelines are initially established by the district health and safety committee in consultation with Johnson County Public Health. The health and safety guidelines are then handed over to the building level where building level administration applies the guidelines to their individual building. With the amount of students in our classrooms now, social distancing (6 feet or more) can only be done on a limited basis. In the hybrid learning model we were able to ensure 6 feet of distance between students in most classrooms, however now that average distance is closer to 3 feet. Teachers are required to have seating charts so that staff can determine close-contacts when it is determined that there was a COVID positive person in that classroom while they were contagious. During lunch we also can not ensure social distancing at individual lunch tables, but we are able to reduce the number of close contacts by limiting the number of students at each lunch table. Students are encouraged to sit at the same table each day. We are able to get approximately 6 feet of distance between each table.”
Nick Borchert, English, shares what he believes Liberty is doing to limit close contact between all individuals in the building.
“I do believe Liberty is taking steps to minimize close contact. These include attempting to space desks out in the room, extending the area of the lunch room, making halls one-way, making use of the study hall rooms for classroom space, and limiting small-group work in classes. However, it would be incorrect to say that we are ‘enforcing social distancing’ at this point. With all students back in the building, true physical distancing in our classrooms is a mathematical impossibility. In my room, for example, desks are arranged in pods of 4 or 5, so that each student is only within six feet of three or four others. That’s not ideal, and it’s not true ‘social distancing,’ but it’s the best I can do with classes of 27 to 30 students.

That’s not ideal, and it’s not true ‘social distancing,’ but it’s the best I can do with classes of 27 to 30 students.”

— Nick Borchert

I think the best we can say now is that we’re doing our best to provide a safe learning environment under the current laws. I am proud of our students for their commitment to mask-wearing and other safety protocols. From my perspective, we haven’t had too much spread of the virus from inside our classrooms. That’s a testament to students and staff taking safety seriously. But again, we aren’t able to social distance, so according to recommendations from CDC and WHO, our learning environment is not as safe as it could be.”
Trinity Armento, senior, feels torn on how the school has handled the transition to 100% in-person learning.
“I do not believe they are trying to enforce social distancing in the halls but are in the classrooms and lunchroom. They’re trying their best with all the students we have. I don’t feel safe with it, there is not enough space between kids in classrooms and a lot of kids take their masks off or wear them incorrectly,” said Armento.
Sophomore Jordyn Smith feels similar to Armento that not all of the procedures that have been put in place are working effectively.
“The one way hallways are not working and they’re making it more difficult to get to classes on time. I don’t think the current level of social distancing is working because people are basically as close as they were last year and there are too many people in condensed places,” explained Smith.

During the ongoing pandemic, there’s ways to improve social distancing and decreasing exposure risks.
“Overall, I feel that Liberty is doing a pretty good job of social distancing during the school day. One improvement would be for students to limit contacts with individuals at school who they do not sit next to in a class and/or lunch. With most teenagers this is a difficult ask as school typically is a pretty social environment,” said Colbert.
Smith and Armento provided suggestions for improvement.
“Maybe make less people in classes or reduce the amount of materials that are being shared between students during classes,” said Smith.
“I don’t really think there is a way to make it better because students will continue to do what they want,” said Armento.
All schools throughout the ICCSD are working at keeping their students and staff safe while readjusting to 100% onsite learning. As these challenges continue to present themselves, Liberty is focusing on settling back into an ordinary school year while doing whatever possible to keep students and staff safe.