As we are all aware of by now, the 2020-2021 school year has been accompanied by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has unfortunately persisted without pause. However, many schools are enforcing the use of masks as well as social distancing to maintain safety and also to simulate a learning environment for those who choose to attend school in person. As a result of major changes made to the way schools are running, many clubs and extracurriculars have been directly affected.
The Junior ROTC program at Hirschi has also employed these precautionary measures, and a cadet has spoken out about how their practices and schedule have changed from last school year, representing one of many other school organizations that have conformed to the foreign atmosphere. When questioned about the current situation in regards to how ROTC was conducted last year, the cadet mentioned how their opportunities for community service were quite limited, responding, “This year has been really different from last year; because of COVID-19, we can’t really do anything big like- for example- last year, we cancelled our yearly banquet and ceremonies, so we did all of that online instead.” However, she did state that any required in-person training would involve social distancing, “even though some were finding it very difficult to stay distant.” This simply conveys that we are still unfamiliar with the present scenario and entails how we are adapting to it while trying to participate in activities as conventionally as possible.
The cadet also pointed out how also although she wanted to contribute time to more community service and be recognized by her instructors, she felt inhibited by the growing danger posed by the virus as cases began to rise aound around late October, stating how she only “went for about 6 times to an ROTC event that was mostly for practice, and once for the veterans day event.” One issue she also wanted to highlight elaborates on the liberties given to students who opted for online learning; she mentioned how one can “choose to not attend a school event, but for out of town trips, only people who went to school at home could choose whether or not to go on the trip.” It is possible that students who are learning virtually already have the upperhand as they are confined to their homes, which is most likely due to a “parent-made” decision. This is true not only with JROTC but with many other clubs and extracurricular activities- during this time, guardians are relied on to contrive safe environments for their children, and their decisions are prioritized especially when regarding in-person community involvement. However, this does not mean that parents who have allowed their children to attend in-person do not care for the latter’s safety, and any opposition to their children attending a public event would most likely germinate from principal reasoning.
Based on her personal experiences with the JROTC program at Hirschi, the cadet suggested some improvements that could be made to provide a more interactive, compatible, and secure environment. She wanted more emphasis on acknowledging the mental health of many of her fellow members as they struggle to complete schoolwork and attend practices. Furthermore, she believes that amplification of open communication to resolve misunderstandings during practice sessions would allow for less anxiety and tension between students and instructors. This can be applied to many scenarios involving the comprehensive sharing of knowledge, in sports and other activities, that are undergoing such an intense and unprecedented period. This being said, physical precautions are simply one of the many necessary “precautions” being (or not being) exercised in schools. All things considered, maybe there could be a push for positive reinforcement in this program as well as in others to greater ensure the safety and cordial treatment of all contributing members not only during the pandemic but in the coming years as well.