Editorial: unclear COVID-19 protocols leave students in the dark

Editorial: unclear COVID-19 protocols leave students in the dark

Remember last year when we regularly received emails about COVID-19 cases and our health and safety protocol? Where did those go? The pandemic is still happening, yet there seems to be little to no regular communication between administration and students about the ongoing pandemic protocol at the high school.

On Dec. 1, 2021, Head of School Anthony Meyer sent a mass email to students informing them of six positive cases in our school community, one of them involving an in-school transmission. He then continued the email by reminding recipients of basic COVID-19 regulations. This email came as a shock to many, as communications such as these were nonexistent since last June.

It turns out that as of Dec. 13, 2021, there have been a total of 22 positive COVID-19 cases at the high school with five positive COVID cases and 117 close contacts over the week of Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. With the consistent emails Meyer sent last year updating students and staff on the school’s COVID-19 cases, it seems strange that there has been virtually no communication regarding these cases so far this year.

There also are a few holes and unanswered questions in the high school’s COVID-19 regulations and protocols that deserve to be addressed for the sake of students’ health and peace of mind. The first is the disappearance of pool testing.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that “regular testing is a safe, effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep schools open for in-person learning. Many people with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus, so regular testing helps find people who have the virus before it can spread to others.”

The high school hasn’t conducted pool testing, where students can get tested weekly, since June 7, 2021.

The only way students can get tested in school is with a “BinaxNow rapid antigen test for individuals who become symptomatic while at school,” or through the “‘Test to Stay’ program for individuals who are determined to be a close contact,” according to the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) website.

Another integral part of the COVID-19 protocol is that a student or staff member must stay home if they’re sick or display symptoms of COVID-19, and they must quarantine for a minimum of ten days if they test positive for COVID-19. But this comes with many questions from students that have remained unanswered from the administration.

For example, if a student has to stay home for two weeks, how will they stay on top of their course load and homework now that classes are held exclusively in person? If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19, who will cover their classes? Students have expressed a desire for classes to be live-streamed if they are absent, but teachers are hesitant to go back to virtual classes.

Since people have been getting vaccinated, the overall attitude towards COVID-19 has shifted, so more people are likely to come into school if they have COVID-like symptoms. The mask-wearing enforcement has also been particularly frustrating lately, with many exposed noses out and about. People seem to think that since you can take your mask off when eating in the STEM wing common area, you can also keep it off when not eating in the STEM wing, but that is not the case.

The PSB website says, “a face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals upon arrival to and in school buildings, on school transportation, and at school-sponsored activities even when social distancing is observed,” but “students and staff will not need to wear a mask during mask breaks or when they are eating or drinking in a seated position.”

There is a general consensus amongst more concerned students that school doesn’t feel as safe as it should, which needs to be a main goal for the school. It feels as though the little things that weren’t thought about as thoroughly (such as lunch, testing and new variants) are coming to light, and even well-made plans are gradually deteriorating.

All in all, the lack of communication between administration and students on the COVID-19 cases and protocol front has left us in the dark and students deserve more information.