COVID Changes For Chargers

Through+the+globe%2C+communities+are+learning+to+coexist+with+COVID-19%2C+contrary+to+attempts+to+defeat+given+its+resurgence+in+March+of+2020.+%7C+Courtesy+of+Xavi+Cabrera

Through the globe, communities are learning to coexist with COVID-19, contrary to attempts to defeat given its resurgence in March of 2020. | Courtesy of Xavi Cabrera

Sammi Medioda, Lit-Art and Sports Editor

“We are moving away from fighting COVID-19, and learning how to live with COVID-19,” said the Wilcox High School Principal Ms. Kristin Gonzalez in a sit-down interview on January 20th, 2022, to discuss the future of us Chargers as rumors spiral students into a wave of worry and wonder.

Upon the return to campus following the 2021 winter break, a shock of fear surged throughout Wilcox as students were met with half-filled classrooms – a grand surprise from the school’s usual 98 percent attendance rate. Curiosities were eventually settled with the revelation of the concentric test results the succeeding Friday as twenty-seven pools returned positive – nearly 500 members of the Charger Community.

On Sunday, January 9th, Wilcox staff arrived early morning to assemble 500 individual test kits whilst 341 cars streamed through the parking lot. By night, 20 of the positive cases within the pools were identified and prompted to begin the isolation process. This wicked reality continued into the next day until all of the positive cases were picked out, but predictable given its overbearing nature, COVID-19 refused to stop there. Only a week later, concentric test results from January 19th increased, returning a total of 35 positive pools.

Ms. Gonzalez was bewildered by the weight of the 324 students that were required to test on campus. In response, she says, “In last week’s update [to Wilcox Staff], I said it would have been ‘impossible’ to test this many people on campus – but it was proven again that anything is possible.” She continues by reinforcing the importance of masking and testing, encouraging students to take advantage of the available testing at Wilcox’s neighboring theater, The Mission City Center for Performing Arts. Despite it previously being open to the Santa Clara community, it has limited its usage to only Santa Clara Unified students and staff with the requirement being proof of ID. 

Despite the assumed comfort from such safety provisions, the absence of their peers and beloved faculty led overwhelmed students to ask a series of questions: Are we transitioning back online? How do I know I’m not sitting right next to someone carrying the virus? Am I even safe on campus? In response, Ms. Gonzalez puts rumors to rest as she explains the implementation of Assembly Bill 130 (AB 130). Focusing on public and charter schools alike, AB 130 was signed into law on July 9th, 2021, by California Governor Gavin Newsom which communicates the educational options for pupils and their families in regards to the 2021 to 2022 school year. 

In contrast, Assembly Bill 10 (AB 10), which had originally been imposed during the Spring of 2020 when COVID-19 cases were at an all-time high, was a temporary law passed by the California legislature to allow for short-term distance learning. In the time of its execution, Ms. Gonzalez expresses her dire disbelief as her heart pours out she “never, never in a million years did I think our public school system would shut down.” Today, given the absence of AB 10, distance learning, as well as the compromise of hybrid learning, is no longer a viable option for schools throughout California. State officials are so desperate to remain open as they take advantage of recent resources such as rapid testing, which has demonstrated its effectiveness in catching active antigens. While transitioning online was the best decision in March 2020, Santa Clara Unified School District is optimistic that they could persist throughout the period of the potentially approaching COVID-19 peak..

Following the expiration of AB 10, school boards statewide have learned one pivotal lesson as Ms. Gonzalez states, “it’s not what’s best, not how students learn best.” This idea is difficult to argue, as student performance represents that virtual learning produced more damage than good: from a significant spike of mental health issues amongst the Wilcox student body, such as anxiety and depression, as well as some reverting back to “behaviors typical of middle schoolers” given underdeveloped social and cognitive skills from isolation. Rapid tests and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests provide the ability of coexisting with COVID-19, and as a more conservative county, Santa Clara is beginning to move past the inconveniences of the virus, prioritizing the wellbeing of its youth.

As each passing day proves to be unlike the previous, Ms. Gonzalez looks ahead with bright eyes and in a final statement, shares such buoyancy to the rest of the Charger community: “I am hopeful we can get to a somewhat-normal place this year, I’d love to offer a Multi, Fantastics, Prom, and Graduation that are as normal as possible. Many of our events have not been held in 2 years, though I am excited to see what the future holds for us Chargers.”