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Is the Plexiglass Really Worth It?

As we all know, after we returned from our short quarantine in January, plexiglass was added to every classroom in GMC for the sake of safety. Is it really safer this way though? Looking at how everything has changed, I would say we were better before the plexiglass, and here are the reasons why.

The plexiglass is generally inconvenient. It makes cleaning time longer, which can take away from class time and it makes college students have to pack up earlier so they can clean more and still get to their next class on time. It affects cleaning outside of classrooms, too. I've helped clean the tables in the cafeteria many times, and it's much harder to clean the entire table with the plexiglass in the way. The plexiglass is also very distracting. I've heard several accounts of the plexiglass falling while class was in session. Not only is the sight and noise of it falling distracting, but so is trying to fix it or putting it back up. A few weeks ago, the nurses had to interrupt class to put pool noodles on the plexiglass so it didn't fall again and create more distractions, but that was a distraction in itself. Workspaces are also much smaller because of plexiglass, which is causing disorganization and stress for students.

The plexiglass isn't very effective. It can be ineffective for several reasons. First, it only has two sides, so turning around makes it completely useless. Many students have to turn around because their seat does not face the board or where the teacher is standing. Also, many students at lunch are sitting directly next to each other because there is a large gap without glass where the two pieces of plexiglass are side-by-side. Second, students are finding ways around it. The plexiglass isn't very tall, so standing up instantly destroys its purpose. Students have had a hard time trying to communicate through the plexiglass because voice echoes off of it, so many of them simply stand up. Students have been standing up at lunch as well so it's easier to talk and hear each other over all the noise. One teacher, who we are not naming, says, "It's nice to think that we have another layer of protection, but it does make communication even more difficult. Words already muffled by masks are now further muffled by the plexiglass. Students have also not been crazy about all of the reflections messing with their eyes."

Plexiglass isn't a good replacement for social distancing. I don't know exactly how many classrooms have done this, but I know of at least two classrooms that have had to push socially distanced desks together in order to put up the plexiglass. The CDC has constantly advised people to socially distance because it's the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we just stopped doing it because now we have plexiglass dividing us. Another teacher says, "I am not sure that a one-size-fits-all approach is advisable. Prior to the installation of the plexiglass, the majority of my classes were socially distant. Now, many of my students are closer to each other than they were before the plexiglass was installed. I understand the science behind the use of plexiglass; however, I am still uncomfortable now that my students are physically closer together." Also in regard to social distancing, an argument that I've heard several teachers make in regards to taking masks off is "air circulation can still make germs go around," even if we're socially distanced. Is that argument now void? Granted, we aren't allowed to take our masks off now, but a small piece of glass will not keep germs from other people away, especially now that we're close together.

Last but not least, students are being significantly less aware of safety and cleanliness because of the plexiglass. The only places they are forced to clean the plexiglass is in their classrooms, so they don't take the plexiglass seriously anywhere else. The most apparent example of this is in the cafeteria. I have been working in the cafeteria on Wednesdays for service hours and can say with confidence that most students don't care about the plexiglass staying clean. Below are a few pictures of the plexiglass in the cafeteria.

It's a bit difficult to see, but students have drawn faces on the plexiglass and have moved it so they can talk more easily. There have also been cases of people putting fingerprints and even lip prints on the plexiglass, but I don't have pictures of those. Regardless, students are not taking precaution.

Needless to say, I think we were safer and better off without the plexiglass. There were good intentions behind it, but installing the plexiglass brought more bad things than good. I feel we can find better ways to stay safe and clean.

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