COVID 19 Restrictions – The Effect on School Life

By: Clara Amry

American International School, art classroom, COVID 19 restrictions

COVID 19, the global pandemic that started in 2020, has taken over much of the lives of teachers and students. Initially in 2020, when the virus came to Austria, Vienna shut down schools, shops, and workplaces in order to create a safer environment, and protect those with a greater risk of the virus, such as elderly, and people with other illnesses. 

However, AIS, unlike many other Austrian schools, kept the school curriculum going as best it could. With online learning, and incorporating technology into the school life, the school was able to maintain a steady pace of learning, and keep students caught up with their work. Many things have changed from this time, and in the 2022 school year, the lighter COVID restrictions have been welcomed by both students and teachers.

In March of 2020, the restrictions for this global pandemic were more severe, especially in school. At AIS and the majority of schools in Vienna, masks were mandatory at all times, lunchtime and classroom seating arrangements were set, all so that the government could track the spread of the virus. However, even with through these restrictions, there were numerous cases of Corona, between 1,900-8,200 cases per day. When there was one case per grade, the K1 and K2 (close contact people) also had to go into quarantine. Students had to do an antigen test every day in school, and twice per week perform a PCR test in the evening at home.

These precautions were not only for school, but also outside of school. For example, the many students who took public transportation were required to social distance and wear a mask in buses, trains and trams, and also shops such as grocery stores.

The COVID case numbers per day were the highest in Spring of 2022, with the highest point of 64,000 cases per day. Over the course of two years, the COVID restrictions have been altered, and this school year, they have been almost taken down completely, as the number of Corona cases have decreased since the Spring, ranging from 2,800-5,800 cases per day in the past two months.

For example, the masks are not required any more, and students and teachers may choose if they want to wear a mask in school. This led to the majority of students and teachers choosing to go “mask-free” for the past first semester of the school year. Also, students are not required to hand in a negative antigen or PRC test in the morning, and social distancing (2m space per person during social activities, etc.) is no longer required.

These lighter restrictions have positively impacted the school life at AIS. For example, the classrooms are a more pleasant environment for the students, as they do not have to wear masks any more, meaning it is significantly more comfortable. And since it is not required any more to open the windows for a long period of time, the classes do not get as cold any more in the winter. At the beginning of the pandemic, teachers were required to open the windows to air the classrooms for health regulations. During the winter months, this was unpleasant, with classes becoming extremely cold, which even led to some students bringing blankets and other warm clothing items that they would not usually bring to school.

Lighter regulations have also changed lunch time at school. Last year, it was obligatory for the cafeteria to put up large plastic shields in between each of the table seats in order to protect the students while without a mask. However, this was a discomfort for many, as communication was more difficult through these shields. 

The transportation to and from school has also been affected by the new regulations. For example, many students during the depth of the pandemic, were brought to school by car as this was a “safer” option than public transportation. In Vienna public transport, wearing the mask was required. The schoolbus also requires students to wear a mask, as this was also decided by the public health care. 

Not only have these lighter restrictions impacted day to day life, but they’ve also bettered the students’ mental health. During the depths of the global pandemic, students were socially isolated, forced to stay home during distance learning or quarantine. According to a meta-analysis of 29 studies, pre-pandemic, child and adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms were 25,2% and 20,5%. During and post-pandemic, the percentage of teen depression and anxiety almost doubled, due to factors like isolation, fear of loved ones dying from the virus, and increased stress levels in school, during distance learning. There have been many changes that have been made from the 2021 to the 2022 school years, which have made school life easier for everyone.

Citations:

https://www.ais.at/news-details-clone/~board/migrated-news/post/welcome-back-amp-happy-new-year

https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2782796

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