One of the most common problems associated with Palo Alto’s high-pressure environment is the mental health of its students. But what about the physical health of the students?
Every flu season, classrooms are filled with sniffling, coughing and constant throat clearing.
The main cause of these symptoms? The common cold. According to the Center for Disease Control, the average adult gets two-three colds each year. It’s so common that we’re used to it, so we take some medicine, drink liquids and take a couple days off from school.
That was routine up to middle school.
Now, in high school, taking a sick day can potentially leave you struggling to catch up with the classwork and homework you missed. Of course, the workload depends on which kind of classes you’re taking. In some classes you might be able to get away with missing a day or two. But there are other classes, like Advanced Placement Biology or AP United States History, where missing a day can mean falling behind.
It’s this pressure that forces students out of bed when they’re sick to attend classes even when they shouldn’t. It just goes to show how much of an unhealthy emphasis Palo Alto High School has put on academics.
Paly nurse Jennifer Kleckner agrees that students push themselves too hard.
“Students who fear that they will fall behind, and see their dreams put at risk, often prefer to struggle through the day at half strength,” Kleckner said. “It’s folly, because their illness drags on longer, their work is not as strong as it could be if they invested in their recovery and they spread their viruses to others.”
It’s this kind of environment that creates the worst situations for spreading viruses. Because of the severe consequences of missing class, students often get out of bed and drag themselves to school, only stopping when they physically can’t go.
I conducted an unofficial survey across the sophomore, junior and senior classes to see how students felt about coming to school when sick. The survey, which was posted in the respective class Facebook pages, netted 179 responses. While the results may have only come from a small section of Paly, it serves as a rough base of evidence.
According to Kleckner, the school criteria for not attending class ranges from frequent coughing and a sore throat to vomiting and temperatures above 100 degrees.
When asked what it would take for students to not come to school, 41 percent said puking, 31 percent said a fever, 11 percent said hospitalized and 8 percent said a cold.
When asked if they felt pressure to come to school when sick, 81 percent said yes.
While the data is only from a small section of the student body, the implications from it are alarming. The majority of the students surveyed are willing to come to the school when sick. This isn’t only detrimental to their health, but also the health of the students around them.
By having so many sick students come to school, they risk infecting their classmates and staff members. While this is commonly attributed to catching a cold and spreading it, what happens if there is a particularly bad strain of flu going around? People may think it’s just a cold and continue going to school, all the while spreading the bug to more and more people.
An example of this is the swine flu outbreak in 2009. According to an article written by The Paly Voice, 136 students were marked as sick. On one day. So many students missing classes is heavily disruptive to teachers and students alike. With so many students missing, most teachers have no choice but to re-teach material they previously covered, and the more days that the students miss, the larger the workload that builds up, further adding to the already heavy workload.
This is the problem with Paly’s environment. It not only is mentally detrimental, but physical as well. No sick student should feel pressure to come to school, this drive to not fall behind.
Except we do.