Back at school, but concerned about COVID


While mask wearing has not been an issue as it is in other parts of the country, both students and staff are still concerned about COVID. French teacher Patricia Mason said, “I feel safe to a certain extent. I don’t think I will ever feel as safe again as I felt before the pandemic hit.”

 After a year and a half of enduring online learning, students are finally back in school and in person with masks. A sense of normality is finally upon us but that may or may not be a good thing. 

As the new school year gets underway, there are mixed reactions to being back on campus. French teacher Patricia Mason stated, ¨I am really happy to be back with French students in person. I enjoy the interaction with them.” Mason said she does worry about contracting COVID because she has been in contact with people at school who are positive for COVID-19. “I feel safe to a certain extent. I don’t think I will ever feel as safe again as I felt before the pandemic hit,¨ she said.

Staff aren’t the only ones with concerns. Senior Fatima Laureano-Maravilla said, ¨For me, being back in person is very nerve wracking and anxiety-inducing. I have two family members at home who are at high risk, making school very dangerous for all of us.” She said she doesn’t feel safe because people walk around without masks and it seems like people don’t care about the ongoing pandemic. “It’s frustrating and it makes me feel like the school doesn’t care when it should still be taken as a precaution,” she said. Laureano-Maravilla said she does feel like enough is being done with the huge population, but there are some issues that should be worked out such as the cleaning off desks or some sort of similar sanitization in the classrooms.

Senior Ashley Alvarez added, ¨Being back to school in person is a lot better than doing online school because this way I can focus more without there being any distractions. I think having to wear masks at school is a good thing because we are keeping ourselves safe by not spreading any germs. So far I do feel like there has been enough to keep myself and others safe at school because teachers and staff make sure that we are being sanitary and cautious.¨

While being back is good news, COVID cases have been rising across the country. There have been confirmed cases in our district and our site. Assistant Principal Pedro Edeza, who oversees the school’s COVID response, stated, ¨We have had about a dozen confirmed cases since the beginning of the school year. Percentage wise the number is small. When we find out, we inform about exposure and close contact. Close contacts are pulled from class and tested as soon as possible. A shut down would happen by state or county like before and possibly in a situation where multiple outbreaks occur in the school. An outbreak is when five or more students in a classroom turn out COVID positive. Ultimately the district, county or state makes that call, not the site.¨

The district has taken measures to keep students and staff safe. As of right now there is a plan according to Edeza. ¨The plan is three fold: first is communicating to students to continue wearing their mask because we know COVID is an airborne virus. Masks are imperative in reducing the spread. Second, to stay home when students and staff are exhibiting symptoms related to Covid-19. The third is contact tracing and testing students on and off campus when possible exposure occurs or students or staff have symptoms.¨

Measures are also being taken to alert parents about positive cases. Edeza explained, ¨When a student or staff test positive we communicate to staff and parents that there is a reported Positive Covid Case in one of their students’ class periods. We investigate and identify close contacts.We assess anyone that was in close contact and ensure they do not have symptoms. We test and monitor for the following 10 days.The process varies if students or staff are vaccinated or unvaccinated.¨ 

The district is working with the California Department of Public Health to ensure the safety of K-12 schools. Superintendent Dan Burns said, “Through these guidelines, we implement safety protocols, such as having high capacity air filtration, requiring masks indoors, promoting hand hygiene, maximizing space where possible and educating everyone to stay home if they are not feeling well. We also follow the positivity rates by zip codes to track where the rise in cases may be coming from as well as where we may need additional resources. The guidelines also includes recommendations for students using buses, athletics, band/choir as well as strategies for reducing risks of exposure to COVID19.¨ 

The district, the Department of Public Health, and Center for Disease Control are a bit serious about the guidelines, as they want the fewest possible cases. There is also a plan in place for a possible positive COVID case/cases. If one tests positive for COVID 19, that person is required to quarantine for 10-14 days depending on the severity of COVID symptoms. “Once we are notified of a positive case, the District conducts contact tracing to determine if anyone was within six feet of the positive person for more than 15 minutes. This is what they call a close contact and that person will have to be quarantined for 10 days. If that person is vaccinated they can stay in school unless they have COVID19 symptoms, but if they are not vaccinated, they must be quarantined at home. If more than three cases come from a single office or classroom at the same time, that is reported to the Health Department and they guide the District through processes to make sure that we don’t have an outbreak. Also, they still recommend the best option is to get vaccinated,¨ said Burns. 

Burns also stated, ¨We also work directly with the Monterey County Health Department to report any positive cases and they also let us know if any student or staff have tested positive.  This allows us to do contact tracing to limit exposures and in turn, keep schools open.¨