Going to School in "Bubbles": Is it Possible?
By: Alessandro Mortellaro
Photo Via Vézina Architects
On September 9th 2020, Dawson students were notified through Omnivox that a person who was on campus the week before had tested positive for COVID-19. The news once again raises the question of how, if at all, the college can safely conduct in-person activities during a global pandemic. The college limited its in-person learning from the very start of the semester; I talked with students who attended these select classes to hear, and share, their experience.
A second-year nursing student, Faith De Luca is required to complete a certain number of labs. These took place on campus over two weeks, prior to the start of the Fall semester.
De Luca entered the school through the De Maisonneuve entrance each day. She and her peers identified themselves as nursing students to security, who proceeded to take their temperature. The COVID-19 Screening Questionnaire had yet to be implemented. Instead, the guard verbally asked students if they had COVID-19 symptoms, or if they had been in contact with anyone who had tested positive
Upon arriving to class, students were provided face shields to complement the masks they were already wearing. The lab-rooms had stations that students used in pairs, and each student wore gloves to touch the lab equipment. De Luca admitted that it was difficult to physically distance, since students were required to practice taking each other’s blood-pressure. To prevent the chain of transmission, the equipment was disinfected before rotating between stations.
De Luca stated that the lab room’s stations were spaced apart nicely, and teachers made sure students were distancing to the best of their abilities and wearing their preventative gear correctly. De Luca was comfortable during each lab, with only about five to eight students in each class. Students were also taught proper hand hygiene before the beginning of the two-weeks.
Another nursing student, who preferred to not be named, was also required to complete labs prior to the start of the Fall semester. Their lab period began a week before De Luca’s, and their account included some notable differences.
Also entering by the De Maisonneuve entrance and passing through security, they were merely required to disinfect their hands upon entering the building. They were never asked if they had any COVID-19 symptoms, or if they had been in contact with anyone who had tested positive in the last fourteen days. They emphasized that this should have been done because most students worked in hospitals over the summer, another detail which the protocol seemed to overlook. Our anon assumed that teachers trusted their students to not come into school with symptoms.
One at a time, each student disinfected their hands upon entering the lab. Despite having to practice putting on face-shields as a part of their lab, they were not required to wear one through the lab itself.
Unlike De Luca’s class groupings, our anon’s classes had two groups of nine in each, with two teachers supervising each class. Physical distancing was difficult: the classroom was small, the lab-work required the students to interact and practice their nursing techniques on each other, and classmates simply didn’t respect physical distance. Lab material was also scarce, therefore shared, and the lab’s space didn’t allow students to physically distance and disinfect standard amounts of equipment simultaneously.
Anon expected more from their teachers. Apparently, teachers had difficulty keeping their masks on as it was not easy to communicate with students, and merely because “it was uncomfortable for them.”
Anon admitted that there was little to no effort by students to social distance, and their in-person learning ended abruptly. Lab exercises were dependent on the use of mannequins and specific equipment, so their cancellation was a significant decision and a reminder of the college’s precarious position. The two-week lab period was cut short after just one day, and was completed virtually.