Opinions and Outrage: School in a Pandemic


Courtesy of Anagha Dogiparthi

Students at school are encouraged to wear their masks while working.

Anagha Dogiparthi

Switching from Zoom meeting to Google Meet was a universal experience for high schoolers all over the world for the last academic year. Now with all the new enforcements, as well as in-person schooling, what are the new challenges staff and students face?

After a year and a half of online school, many students have reported that staring at the computer all day without any breaks was mentally and physically taxing for not only students, but many of the staff members as well. Even though students were looking forward to coming to school with no restrictions at all, it seems that keeping masks on and enforcing physical distance is going to become the new normal for a while. Until now, the SCUSD District and Wilcox High School’s staff has spent a good amount of time discussing the appropriate measures needed to be taken in order to ensure the safety of students. These measures include a mask mandate and weekly self-screening tests to make sure that students in classrooms are not spreading the virus to each other. 

Wilcox High School’s principal, Kristin Gonzalez and staff are also very vocal about following the rules set in place, and emphasize the importance of being safe in hard times like these.  Principal Gonzalez sat down for a short interview to talk about her opinions on the effectiveness of these measures and expressed her support for public county officials’ decisions, stating that the “best course is to follow the advice and direction of the public health experts.”

One rule that Wilcox High School has decided to change from SCUSD’s original guidelines was to mandate masks both indoors and outdoors as it used to be optional for students and staff to have their masks outdoors. Principal Gonzalez connects this decision to the fact that “on a campus this size of two thousand teenagers…. It’s quite rare that you’re not within six feet of someone else..” which is why it is enforced to wear  “masks at all times except when eating or drinking because there is no practical way to enforce it within six feet of each other.”

Another rule Wilcox has decided to implement is weekly pool testing, which was set in place to provide another way to see whether the safety measures instated were truly working. The benefit of pool testing is that it can test up to twenty five people using one round, and takes less than ten minutes per pool, making it very efficient for schools to purchase and execute. 

 A typical pool testing session consists of participation of all staff and students who have received consent from their parents or guardians. They all must swab their own noses, each nostril five times, and drop it into a test tube which is then run as a single sample in one test. If a positive test is shown, students will be asked to take a COVID-19 test within five days of being informed to ensure that no one is spreading the virus to other classmates. The effectiveness of the new rules in place is clear through this testing, as Principal Gonzalez states that there were no positive cases that have been reported since it began.

With all these safety measures in place, do staff really know how effective the implementations are? For now, administration and staff are confident that this current routine is effective  there have only been nine reported cases in Wilcox High School

As Principal Gonzalez says, “compared to two thousand, nine is a very small percentage” of total students. She also mentions that among the nine cases, “all of them contracted [COVID] outside of Wilcox- so they contracted it at home, or at a family gathering, or at some other outside event they participated in.” This emphasizes that the school has been using effective techniques to ensure that no students are contracting COVID-19 in the Wilcox community as none of them have gotten the virus within school. it was merely through an outside commitment they had no control over.

Overall, both the SCUSD District and School Staff have been very vocal about their avid support in the CDC’s instructed guidelines and the guidelines they have developed for schools.  Even though there are a low number of cases, the verdict is to keep safety measures in place. Updates about the COVID-19 Safety Plans for the future can be found on SCUSD’s Website page called “COVID-19 Safety Plans”.