In the week after break, the high school saw a record amount of COVID 19 cases. 219 students tested positive, almost doubling the total cases for the entire school year up to January.
The high school responded to this surge in cases by temporarily canceling winter sports for a few days, asking teachers to socially distance more, and moving 9th grade lunches to the gym. The sports season has been restored, but freshmen are still eating on the second floor.
The student reaction to these moves has been varied.
“I think they’re doing a pretty good job. There’s only a certain amount you can do in school before you have to go online again” said Andrei Samarin ’23. “Because you have to have all the kids in school, so if you want to do fully in person learning, there is a limit to what you can do with protection by moving the lunches, making sure everyone’s socially distant, classes reminding everyone to wear their masks”
Myles Vigil ’22 had a very different take on the issue, seeing these precautions as insufficient to stop the spread of COVID.
“I think it would be safer for people that are at risk if we just stopped going to school for a few weeks and tried to find cases and get them out of the school before they really hurt people. But I don’t think that’s possible right now”
Harmonie Chen ’23 did Remote Learning School (RLS) last year to avoid spreading COVID-19 to her household, which includes her grandparents, but has gone in person this year. Despite her challenging experience in RLS, she has nevertheless supported online school as a temporary solution.
“I’m personally fine with going remote, I think that the best solution would be to just wait it out. Wait until cases are getting lower, because 60 cases a day is not right,” said Chen. “People are coming from break that would have caught it during break and now are transmitting it during school. This period of time is definitely very risky.”
Brooke Dawes ’24 has some friends who got COVID, and sees the missed work those who are quarantining have to make up as another potential issue.
“It’s hard for the people who have COVID to keep up with school,” said Dawes “But I do know some people who have had it, and the teachers are understanding.”
Governor Charlie Baker has been insistent that school days must be in person for them to count towards the 180 day quota the high school must meet, equating online school to “playing underwater basketball,” an absurdly ineffective struggle. Under this pressure to remain open and with limited resources to enforce mask rules, the administration has started emphasizing the role of students.
“It’s very difficult to manage, especially with the limited number of staff we have in the cafeteria during that time, so we’re relying on students to use their agency and take that ownership to make good choices,” said Mr. Shattuck, one of the high school’s assistant principals.
Samarin has observed that students are heeding this advice more now, compared to before break.
“I think compared to before the break, there seem to be more people being a little bit safer. I know before break, I’d often see people may not have worn their masks right, but since we came back, I’ve noticed less of that,” said Samarin. People are realizing [the Omicron variant] is pretty dangerous and spreads very fast.”
Although she has not felt particularly unsafe coming back to in person school, this has started to change with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
“I know that we’ve been doing the right [thing]. And some of [my friends] were unlucky, and they got COVID-19 from a person that partied—so there are some students that do a great job and some just don’t care.”
Mr. Shattuck has a clear message that he wants to send to students about their role in fighting the pandemic.
“It’s not just about you. It’s about everyone in this building. And it’s about the loved ones who aren’t in this building, you know, we’ve had we’ve had people who are very close to both students teach this building pass away from COVID, take ownership of your safety. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, do it for the people you care about.”