Returning to campus after the winter holidays has not been as graceful as some may have hoped. During the break, many people went on vacation or visited family and friends, leading to a major rise in Covid-19 cases. Unfortunately, this led to many of the staff and students that go to Eagle Rock High School, myself being one of them, becoming infected. While I am glad to have recovered safely and quickly, the process of returning to school was not as quick or simple. Of course, this is in no way meant to belittle all the hard work our school faculty is doing considering how difficult it must be to manage a school, especially in times like this. That being said, there can always be improvements to any system.
When I tested positive for Covid-19, I was told to quarantine until I tested negative. What I wasn’t told is that the Covid virus remains in your system for up to 90 days. Meaning unless you get rapid tested, your results will continue to show up positive. Luckily, I asked my counselor where I can get tested and he provided me with a few locations. When I showed up to get tested, I was told I couldn’t get a PCR test like everyone else since it would continue to show up positive, so instead, I got handed a rapid test. Again, I was not informed of any of this when I first told my counselor I had tested positive. Unfortunately, not all students were able to get tested due to the lack of information received.
When asked about her experience getting tested and returning to campus after having Covid, fellow Eagle Rock student Samantha Obregan responded “It was kind of challenging due to the fact that I needed a rapid Covid test result to come back and we were not informed on where there was any available. It would be helpful if we were to be provided with one.” Samantha even says “Instead of taking one week to return back to campus, I was forced to wait nearly three weeks until the district and CDC cleared me.” Another student, (a former sophomore at Eagle Rock High School), responded with, “They definitely were not as clear as they could’ve been [...] They could’ve been more strict with their precautions and mandates,” when asked the same question.
While Samantha and the former ERHS student agree that talking to school staff was not giving them the information they needed, another student Kathryn Moynahan admits that she wasn’t even aware she had to inform the school of her positive results. “I was in quarantine for 2 weeks. I didn’t know I was supposed to tell my counselor, I was going to stay home like I was sick normally.” When I tested positive, I was in the same boat, I wasn’t aware of who to talk to, where to get tested, and that I would need a rapid test. I got most of my information from a friend who had covid before me. Similarly, Samantha Obregon claims, “The instructions that I was provided only told me to quarantine but [I was] never given any specific information on how long I should self isolate myself or when I should get tested again.” Former ERHS student adds on by saying “They definitely were not as clear as they could’ve been. I think that’s why a lot of kids who got covid didn’t know till the following week. They could've been more strict with their precautions and mandates.” I’m sure the school and district are working hard to protect students and faculty but that doesn’t mean students can’t weigh in on what they think can help keep them safe.
When asked for their ideas on ways for improving the current system, Kathryn Moynahan said, “They should put a section on the ERHS website [...] They could put resources and vaccination sites or testing sites and then more than that they could put, if you do get covid here’s what you do.” Kathryn’s idea is extremely practical, especially because many students and parents visit our school website for news and instructions, it would be the perfect place to go when you need quarantine clarification. Samantha Obregon feels our school should “provide more clear instructions on what to do when you catch the virus and a 24/7 hotline for questions and concerns.”
While our students at ERHS are suffering from a lack of quarantine knowledge, a student from Centennial High School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District, Nathalia Franco, says, “This semester, Covid-19 rates have been pretty low. Out of the approximately 3,171 students, there have been 98 cases and only 4 active cases now.” When asked about her school’s protocols and mandates, Nathalia responds with “Generally, when a student has been positively tested for covid, the school sends an email to everyone who was in a classroom with them when they had been positive. If you were in close contact you get another email and you need to take a test to return to school.” Though she thinks, “Our school could make the covid testing a requirement so students will get tested more regularly and that can stop the spread of the coronavirus.” But consistent testing is not the only way our schools differ in Covid-19 protocols. While ERHS uses a daily pass to stay aware of their students’ and staffs’ test results, Centennial High doesn’t use any form of a daily pass. “To put it simply, no. We scan in with a student I.D, but it isn’t linked to any of our covid data. For the most part, students and their parents are the main deciders of whether or not they will regularly get tested or quarantine themselves if a member of the family gets covid.” Overall, it is clear that both of our schools can make improvements and maybe we can take advice from each other. For example, we could start making close contact with students who get tested before returning to school.
When these students were asked about their thoughts on mask requirements, most of them seemed to agree that the schools could do a better job of enforcing the rule. “I honestly feel like we should force the mask and vaccine mandate on LAUSD [...] as soon as we can to try to eliminate the spread of the virus,” says Samantha Obregon. The former ERHS student thinks masks “are smart and are necessary. They don’t bother me and it makes me feel safer to know that everyone is required to have it. So we can just get this more handled and life can get a little more normal.” While Katy Moynahan seems very passionate about the enforcement of masks, “They just like don’t do a very good job enforcing it [...] I see a lot of kids that just like keep their mask below their noses [...] Even some teachers have their masks below the nose like Mr. [REDACTED].” When asked about improvements in her school’s protocols, Nathalia says “mask-wearing should be more strictly enforced because a lot of students, and some teachers, wear masks under their nose, or not at all. When this does happen the teachers don’t really say anything, even though it is a rule at our school that the district tells us about.” Even if not everyone is happy with the mask mandate, it helps keep students feeling safe and protects them from covid.
Going to school or doing anything while living through a pandemic is difficult but it’s even harder when we aren’t given proper information on how to take care of ourselves. To maintain the safety of our faculty and students it is important to have clear communication. Hopefully, we can take some of the students’ ideas into consideration when it comes to educating people on our quarantining system.