Story by Charlotte Dekle & Raluca Tudusciuc
Illustration by Martin Walsh
The return to in-person school marked the end of an era filled with uncertainty and chaos. However, what was supposed to be a step back into normalcy is proving to be a continuation of the disarray present throughout the pandemic. Through unclear instructions and nonexistent plans for maintaining the education of coronavirus positive students, the SPHS administration is failing to offer students and faculty crucial support.
SPUSD’s current plans, which are outlined on the district website, highlight the importance of safety on campus. A clear requirement for face coverings while indoors is closely followed by a set of instructions for quarantining and exposure, with emphasis on maintaining personal hygiene throughout. Unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to coronavirus are required to quarantine for 10 days, while those who are fully vaccinated may continue to attend school as per usual. Students and staff displaying symptoms or positive for the virus must stay home for the mandatory amount of time.
These procedures are often ignored or unclear, leading to confusion within the school community. Members of staff have often been known to remove facial coverings while in lessons, despite the explicit requirement that “face coverings are required for all K-12 students and employees.” There are no repercussions for these actions, though they jeopardize the safety of the many students these individuals come into contact with.
“Some teachers turn off the air filters and close doors. Some even take off their masks. So [SPHS should be] enforcing that. Please,” an anonymous student said.
While some prefer an authoritarian approach, this would be equally inadequate as inaction. Limiting students’ freedoms and bodily autonomy is counterproductive as it would perpetuate the idea that students’ learning environments must be dictated by an administration.
The fast-and-loose interpretation of the coronavirus scripture isn’t the only unfulfilled promise left by the district. Communication between the administration and students has been praised by the principal and other staff, but students disagree.
“I think we’re doing a pretty good job of messaging to students and parents in the community, and our staff, about safety measures: how to protect yourself, how and where to get tested, and when. Warning signs to look for and then steps to take if you are positive or if you’ve been exposed. There’s been literally an avalanche of information on all of this sort of stuff to assist people,” Principal John Eldred said.
Guidelines for what to do in the event of exposure have been sporadic and unclear. In a survey conducted by Tiger, respondents voiced their opinion on the school’s response and communication of various restrictions. 62.6 percent of respondents viewed the school’s response as average. But when asked to elaborate on their answer, they tell a different story.
“Personally, I have not received any information on what to do in case I test positive,” senior Jaequon Santos said.
Santos’ experience is not unique.
“[I] don’t know what they do [when someone tests positive], so I’d say [SPHS has communicated] pretty poorly considering that I, as a student, don’t even know anything about what they have people do.” said an anonymous sophomore.
The policies currently in effect stress the importance of remaining home for minor symptoms, regardless of whether they be indicative of coronavirus, stating, “Anyone (including visitors) who has symptoms of infectious illness, such as flu or COVID-19, must stay home and seek testing and care.” Despite assuming this stance of support for excessive caution, SPHS has offered no methods to allow students to actually follow through on this without falling behind on classwork. Treating coronavirus-related absences as regular sick days is not enough.
The fact remains that missing a full 10 days’ worth of school isn’t comparable to an ordinary sick day. Students are expected to catch up on work alone when they return and do not receive the missed instruction that is necessary for their academic success. The additional stress of catching up on these vast amounts of missed work, especially when lacking instruction on the material, provides an incentive not to stay home but to ignore any slight symptoms of illness; the opposite of what the school should be trying to achieve.
Since the campus fully reopened in August, 21 members of SPHS staff and students as a collective have contracted the coronavirus. SPUSD should acknowledge these infections as a major concern and construct a suitable plan to allow education, the school’s ultimate purpose, to continue while students are in quarantine. Communication between the staff and student body must be strengthened to ensure the safety of members of the SPHS community. These issues, which compromise the safety of students and faculty alike, have remained neglected by SPUSD and must be rectified immediately.