BY KAYLA GATES
With the new year has come a new concern for City High School: an unprecedented number of student and staff absences. The rise in covid cases has left classrooms empty and hallways barren, alarming many members of the community.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the United States has led to record numbers of infections. While vaccinations have helped to weaken symptoms, they have largely failed to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant.
This rise in cases has been reflected in the classrooms at CCHS. As more and more test positive, many students and staff have retreated back to at-home isolation as they endure the virus.
Coming back from winter break, 20% of the 210,000 students attending Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) were absent. The surge also prompted hundreds of teachers to call out sick.
“There has been a significant decline in students being here,” CCHS attendance coordinator Natasha Vergara said. “Of the 2,500 kids here, we are missing about 500 students a day due to some kind of issue with COVID.”
While a new mask mandate was discussed, BCPS ultimately ruled that school districts were prohibited from requiring students to wear face coverings. However, they are still being highly encouraged, along with other virus prevention methods such as hand washing and sanitizing.
As for the schools themselves, BCPS has shared that they will continue daily disinfecting and cleaning protocols. School nurses are continuing to contact trace with optional rapid tests being offered to students who were potentially exposed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its isolation guidelines to a five-day quarantine. Individuals are encouraged to follow such protocols should they test positive. BCPS asks that students who are exposed to COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms be kept home until a negative test is returned.
For students in this situation, Microsoft Teams calls are being offered for them to tune into class while at home. However, many have been unable to take advantage of this option or have simply declined the opportunity.
“It was a bit stressful being out,” senior Colby Dernis said. “Some of my classes offered ways to connect on [Microsoft] Teams but a lot more didn’t. It’s a lot of catching up and trying to figure out where everything is.”
As teachers who test positive take their five-day quarantine, more and more substitutes have been called in to cover classes. With both students and teachers missing significant class time, an uninterrupted curriculum has proved almost impossible.
While there has been no mention of shutting down schools, many students, teachers and parents are pushing for this return. With so many teachers and students already at home, community members argue that online school would be safer and more convenient for everyone at this time.
“I think we should definitely go back to online school,” junior Jerry Valdez said. “Every week another one of my friends gets COVID, and I really don’t want to be next.”