Listen to Me, As a Student

A letter to the Blue Valley Board of Education on the current COVID-19 crisis


Aminah Syed, Editor-In-Chief (2021-22)

Dear Blue Valley School Board,

As a student who witnesses BV West High School’s crowded classrooms and halls daily, I beg you, temporarily close the schools. The now infamous Omicron variant has sent south Johnson County into a state of panic. The Olathe School District closed for two days last week and yet, Blue Valley students and teachers endure exposure day after day. In an email addressed to parents, families were asked to be prepared for closures after more than 400 teachers called in sick with COVID-19. Other teachers gave up their plan time, teaching was minimal, and yet, students were still asked to risk exposure by attending school.
According to the Friday, Jan 14 statistics published on the school district’s COVID-19 Dashboard, high schools were required to mask up again, because they exceeded the threshold to mandate masks in both absenteeism and COVID cases. Our school nurse is overwhelmed with infected students. On the first full week back, it was rumored that 20 students went home in one day.
Parents are worried sick to send their children into a biohazard of ill teenagers and teachers. I am worried about my safety. If I were not putting my academics in jeopardy, I would have skipped the first 14 days of school this semester, without hesitation.
While masks are mandated for the eight-hour school day, the after-school indoor basketball games, wrestling matches, and other sports do not require them. Students are left maskless, sitting close together, and yelling. Both our boys and girls basketball teams have had high percentages of their teams impacted.
On Jan 7, 2022, the BV West Jaguar Athletics Twitter account (ran by the BV West Athletic Director) posted a video of students maskless in the gym during a basketball game. The huge crowd was practically sitting on top of each other, jumping up and down, and yelling. That following Monday, there were 3,455 new COVID cases in Johnson County, according to the New York Times COVID tracker.
While last year lacked some school spirit due to virtual school, we have not yet gotten to the level of safety to return “back to normal” this year. I am not anti-school sport or anti-school spirit. I believe kids need sports as an outlet and the athletic talent in our schools deserve opportunities and recognition. I am against the reckless endangerment of letting students unknowingly (or knowingly) spread the virus to each other and our schools.
Surely the school board is aware of everything happening. The cases are going up, the wave of teachers and substitutes calling in sick, the “super spreader” sports events, yet nothing genuinely impactful has been done. While it has been said the school district is out of “levers,” there is one more left; the one that will keep everyone safe is being ignored.
The status quo is, not working.
I am not asking for schools to close indefinitely. As a student, I merely ask for a week or a few days away from each other to stop the spread. Doing this would allow teachers and sick students to catch a break and get back on track with what we need to accomplish in the final semester of the school year.
I imagine none of you have been in a Blue Valley high school in the last couple of weeks. I have. I ask you to listen to students like me walking through the halls of their beloved high school every day instead of responding to angry adults just because they make a scene at a board meeting.

Aminah Syed
BV West Student