Emma Newman co-editor-in-chief
Candice Anvari co-editor-in-chief
Eight students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the 2021-2022 school year began.
The district released their new COVID-19 protocols in response to the COVID-19 cases. At the high school, there is one staff member who has contracted COVID-19. Currently, Horace Mann Elementary School has two students and one staff member who have contracted the virus.
“The process starts with contacting the positive student,” Mead said. “We don’t always find out directly from the student. Sometimes we find out from somebody else, so we contact the student, and we ask some questions basically starting with, ‘How are you? Are you okay?,’ and then we want to know when the symptoms started.”
Once Mead speaks with students, he reviews class rosters in order to discover who else they came in close contact with. After identifying those that were in contact with the COVID-positive students, Mead talks to the teachers to get more information about the cases.
“We ask the teacher basically the same question[s]. ‘Tell me about your lessons last week. Were kids in chairs the whole time? Were you in close contact with his student,’ so we get a really clear list, as clear as we’re gonna get,” Mead said.
After getting a clear picture of which students came into contact with the COVID-positive students, Mead and Stewart pull aside the students to get tested at one of the district testing sites.
Even though contact tracing is necessary for identifying which students have COVID, senior Lorenzo Halsey Solomon believes that the system could still be perfected to better accommodate students who would be missing class.
“I felt annoyed that I was missing out on class time and pretty worried when they put all the contact traced people into one room,” Halsey Solomon said. “It felt a little bit scary to potentially be in a room with people who have COVID.”
Stewart believes that the contact tracing process has “significantly improved” from last week as the administration gathered input from both parents and students to further refine the system.
“Our first couple days, we had multiple cases and all the students came into the same area, but they were spread out. But, that didn’t feel like the safest way to do this,” Stewart said. “Now, we take them to the EDC, where we have chairs that are six-feet apart, and we try not to keep students together for longer than 15 minutes. We continue to receive feedback from people to learn how to make this process even better.”
Similar to Halsey Solomon, an anonymous senior male who tested positive for COVID during the first week of school understands the importance of his quarantine; however, he is “disappointed” that there is no other way to receive instruction from his teachers for the days he is not able to come to school. However, the anonymous senior was “amazed” by “how well” the district handled the situation.
“I was not even slightly aware that I had COVID because I was asymptomatic and I just got my second dose of the vaccine,” the anonymous senior said. “But right when we found out I had the virus, I was immediately taken out of school. I think this was handled really well because I think it could’ve been so much worse if I wasn’t immediately removed from school.”
Stewart agrees that it has been “really hard” for students who have to miss school because of quarantine, however, he believes that this system was created to keep everyone as safe as possible. As of right now, teachers do not have an obligation to use Zoom for students in quarantine. However, Stewart encourages teachers to use Zoom if they are comfortable.
“We encourage students [in quarantine] to reach out to their teachers to see if Zoom is an option,” Stewart said. “Besides that, we repurposed one of our employees, Michelle Dar, who is a quarantine teacher that supports students who are trying to get in contact with their teachers and help them not fall behind.”
Similar to Stewart, Mead believes that the contact tracing process is running more smoothly than it had on the first day of school.
“It’s a big job. For every positive case, it’s at least five hours of work, possibly more,” Mead said. “We’re getting a little better at it, which is nice. It’s just the more you do it, the better you get at it, but it’s not a short process by any means.”
The process was made easier because the administration was prepared for these cases and capable in their abilities, Mead said.
“We knew we would handle it. We always do, but learning what it felt like, and the frantic pace of it was different, but we felt confident that we can handle it and so far we have,” Mead said. “We felt fine, confident, a little excited about the unknown, but now we’ve done five of them, so we’re starting to feel pretty good about it.”
While Mead is positive that the district is well-equipped, he recognizes that there has been concern about shutting down. However, he does not believe that a return to Zoom is likely because of the overwhelming feelings of support from the district and the state for keeping the school open.
“I think what sounds like there is right now is a really heavy commitment to the safety protocols, rather than the closing of schools,” Mead said.
Mead believes that a shut-down is improbable even if the COVID-19 cases are related. However, he doesn’t suspect that the current COVID-positive students contracted the virus at school.
“All the evidence suggests that they’re not coming from school right now, that they’re coming from outside,” Mead said. “We’ve sent kids home, over 100 kids now. Not one has tested positive so far. A kid comes into the class, ends up having symptoms for some time while in that class, tests positive, but no one in that student’s vicinity in six different classes has yet shown a positive symptom.”
Mead’s faith in the current COVID-19 protocols elevated after witnessing the high level of student commitment to following the masking guidelines.
“Ninety percent of our kids are really taking it seriously and doing it right, and those other 10 are getting better,” Mead said. “That’s not a small number, and [in] the 10%, most of them also are doing a decent job. There’s only a few that I feel are a little defiant, and so we’re working with them as well.”
While Mead is confident in the current system, he has a “level of empathy,” with those who do not, either because they believe it is too strict or too lenient. However, he believes that the positive results that he has witnessed should outweigh any concerns.
“It’s a little bit of a polarizing thing at a polarizing time, but all in all, our parents, our kids, by and large, I think it’s…felt successful,” Mead said. “These protocols are pretty strict by LA County and we’re following them, and they appear so far to be containing the cases to happening outside the school.”
If students have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who tested positive, they can get tested at one of the designated district COVID-19 testing sites.