Category: News

Teens in Essential Work

Words: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

Photos Contributed By: Julia Stitely, Noorie Kazmi and Kheira Tuck

Every rule comes with an exception. During a nationwide time of panic, there has been a select group of people who have continued to work, despite stay at home orders. These essential workers are allowed to continue at their jobs if their line of work is deemed necessary enough. However, many of these essential workers are teenagers.

As an essential worker, a teen could work at a restaurant open for delivery or takeout, a gas station, retirement home, or any other business that remains open. 

Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant is a retirement home in Ellicott City, one that employs several Centennial High School students. These employees are considered health care workers, and are tasked with protecting the residents of Miller’s Grant from COVID-19. It is vital that they are very careful to not come in contact with anyone who could be carrying the virus, as the elders they work around would be extremely high-risk if they were to contract it.

To further ensure the safety of the residents, the staff is required to get temperature checks upon arrival at work, to wear masks during shifts, to fill out a mandatory questionnaire, and to practice basic procedures like social distancing and hand washing.

Since their working conditions have changed, teenagers now have the responsibility of being the frontline of defense against the virus, while also balancing distance learning and their own personal health.

The staff’s jobs have changed from serving in dining halls to delivering food and groceries to residents at their homes and apartments. They are also doing activities such as noodle ball, painting, trivia, games, and more with the assisted living and health care unit. The residents in these units are not allowed to have visitors until further notice.

Kheira Tuck, a senior at Wilde Lake, has been working at Miller’s Grant in these trying times. 

“[Residents] cherish every single interaction they have,” said Tuck. Even though the residents must stay six feet away, they still enjoy seeing other residents and staff from their balconies and when they pass by their apartments.

Teenagers who work at grocery stores are also powering through the stress that COVID-19 has brought with bulk buying and overstocking.

“In the morning, the store is usually crowded with people stocking up on whatever had been announced online to be scarce the day before,” explained Mia Zara Bridges, a senior at Centennial who works at sprouts.

Although some people are understanding towards the employees, she still wants customers to realize that she doesn’t have control over supply amounts, and becoming frustrated will not solve the problem. 

Despite the need for these essential workers, some teenagers have been pulled from work by parents, due to school and other reasons. By staying home, these teenagers are still doing their part to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

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Chromebook Distribution in Howard County

Words: Sasha Allen

Photo: Adithi Soogoor

Online learning is difficult for everyone, but for students and staff across the county who do not have access to a device at home, it is nearly impossible. In order to give everyone the same opportunity to participate in online classes, the Howard County Public School System constructed a plan that would allow them to provide those in need with Chromebooks.

The county collected data regarding how many HCPSS students and staff would need provided technology through an online survey that was sent to all students and parents in the county.

On Wednesday, April 8, there were technology pick-up stations for highschoolers at numerous schools throughout the county, including Centennial High School. All of the social distancing guidelines were followed, and everyone was required to stand 6 feet apart.

Despite these precautions, the pick-up stations presented health concerns in regard to COVID-19. For the elementary and middle schoolers who still need Chromebooks, the distribution process was modified.

“To better enforce social distancing and safeguard the health of staff, students, and families, HCPSS will ship all technology devices through FedEx directly to the students who need to borrow them,” stated the HCPSS website. 

The same process will now be used for staff members who may need access to technology. Although the process is safer, it is taking more time to deliver the computers. According to HCPSS, the delay is caused by the number of requests as well as backlog through FedEx. 

By giving all students access to technology, HCPSS is trying to continue learning for everyone across the county as they are stuck inside their homes. 

For more information on technology distribution, visit hcpss.org.

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Online Education’s Grading System

Words: Hoang-Phi Quy

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Howard County Public School System has resorted to online classes which started on April 14, 2020. According to the HCPSS Website, the Continuity of Learning program is focused on “delivering learning objectives in a variety of ways” to the students in Howard County. 

Weekly assignments are made accessible by 9:00am every Monday via Modules on Canvas. Students are then responsible for completing these assignments in a timely manner and turning them in by 10:00am that Friday. 

To make things easier for students during this difficult time, HCPSS has created a new grading system for the Continuity of Learning program. To receive an A in quarter four, students are required to finish and turn in at least 50% of their assignments. 

If students fail to complete 50% of the work, they will be given the opportunity to finish the work over the summer in order to receive a passing grade. HCPSS has also announced that there will be no end of year exams due to the difficult learning environment and the possibility of academic dishonesty.

There are many different opinions on the temporary grading system. 

“I like the current grading system HCPSS has implemented,” expressed Jason Chen, a junior at Centennial. “[It] takes a lot of pressure off [my] shoulders.” 

However, Junior Michael He has a different view regarding the new arrangement. “The current system does not validate other student’s honesty,” He said. “I am not a fan because [it] encourages students to cheat.”

For more information on HCPSS’ Continuity of Learning Program, please visit hcpss.org

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HCPSS Closely Monitoring Evolving Coronavirus Outbreak

Words: Caleb McClatchey

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is diligently monitoring the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak as the number of reported cases in Maryland and the United States continues to rise.

Superintendent Michael Martirano announced Tuesday that all out-of-state field trips will be cancelled for the remainder of the academic year. This is the first major change to standard operations that HCPSS has implemented in response to COVID-19.

HCPSS is following the guidance of the Howard County Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their response to COVID-19. A group of HCPSS leaders and staff are regularly meeting with the superintendent to stay updated on new information and prepare for all potential impacts of COVID-19 on Howard County.

With only 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland and zero in Howard County, HCPSS is currently operating as scheduled within Maryland. HCPSS has stated that this will remain the case “until a change is deemed necessary by local and state health professionals.” Martirano noted in his update on March 3 that closing schools “is a possibility” if necessary to protect the safety of students and staff.

According to an update sent by Martirano on Monday, “HCPSS does not currently have the ability to implement distance learning if students were required to be out of school for an extended period of time.” However, the county is preparing resources that would give students the opportunity to pursue non-course specific educational opportunities at home.

HCPSS continues to regularly share updates with the community on the state of its response to COVID-19. The school system is also encouraging the community to take general precautions like washing one’s hands and covering one’s cough or sneeze with a tissue to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Principal Cynthia Dillon advises students and parents to regularly check the Coronavirus 2019 page on the HCPSS website for the most current updates and information. She emphasizes that any decision made in response to the COVID-19 situation would be made system-wide rather than at the discretion of individual schools.

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Concerns Arise Over Limited Club Interest in Homecoming Carnival

Words: Caleb McClatchey

As of Thursday afternoon, only 13 clubs had signed up for this year’s Homecoming Carnival. If the unusually low number holds through tomorrow’s registration deadline at 2:10pm, John Sharbaugh, nicknamed the “Carnival King” for his role as the event’s lead organizer, says he would recommend cancelling it.

“Thirteen booths at a carnival is not what we want. We need more for the carnival to be successful,” explained Sharbaugh. While the decision to cancel or proceed with the carnival ultimately lies with the administration, Sharbaugh would advise them to choose the former should the number of clubs remain unchanged through tomorrow’s end of the school day deadline.

Although Sharbaugh emphasized that there is no exact minimum number of clubs needed for the carnival to occur, he did mention that it would be best to have at least twenty booths at the carnival.

In order to sign up for the carnival, club sponsors must complete and submit a fundraising form to Cheryl Beall, Centennial’s bookkeeper, and notify her that they will have a Carnival booth.

As of now, the Homecoming Carnival is scheduled for Saturday, September 28 from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Clubs typically set up their booths and fundraise by offering games or selling food and drinks. According to Beall, around 40 clubs participated in the carnival last year. She estimated that clubs normally fundraise between $50 and $100 each, and around $3,000 total at the carnival. Losing this fundraising source could negatively impact many clubs because, as Sharbaugh pointed out, “the carnival is the main fundraising activity most clubs do all year.”

In past years, the carnival has been held on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming weekend, not Saturday morning as it is this year. According to Sharbaugh, the move came over concerns about the safety and supervision of students between the end of the carnival and the start of the football game. The lack of club interest in the Homecoming Carnival this year might be due, in part, to these scheduling changes.

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Howard County Releases Updated Reports on Lead in Water

Words: Delanie Tucker

The Howard County School System has released updates regarding lead levels in the water of schools across the county, including Centennial High School.

Since September 2018, the HCPSS Office of Environment has tested the water in all Howard County schools for lead.

In Centennial’s initial testing, which was done in November 2018, ten water sources tested positive for lead levels above 20 parts per billion (ppb).

The board quickly took action, assessing the problems within the fixtures and deciding how to proceed.

On January 31, 2019, Centennial High School released their first two reports, which laid out the remedial action taken against two of the affected outlets.

An additional six reports were released on March 27.

Of the eight faucets the county fixed to improve the lead levels, four of them were replaced, as the outlet itself was the cause of the lead.

For the other four, more drastic measures were taken, including three being totally removed from the water system in Centennial.

The last outlet was left alone due to the levels dropping to 5.3 ppb and 1.7 ppb in separate additional tests.

The HCPSS Office of Environment is still working to fix the remaining two water outlets, which, as of now, are not in use.

For previous coverage of the lead levels in the water at Centennial High School, click here 

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