Community receives delayed notification of COVID cases amidst Omicron wave


Hadley Carr, Sophia Ibrahim, and Joanna Chait

Wilson will be closed for virtual instruction on Wednesday, December 22. 

In the past week, over 50 Wilson students have tested positive for COVID-19, however, the school community has only been notified of 18 cases so far. As of right now, multiple administrators were unable to provide an exact number of COVID-19 cases or notification emails sent when asked by The Beacon.

“That is a record for us,” Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman said. 

Clarence Alston is an attendance counselor and receives notice from families when a student tests positive. Regarding the number of cases over the past week, there have been, “So many I couldn’t give you a number. I’ve lost count. But enough that’s it’s concerning,” he said.

Assistant Principal Camille Robinson works with Bargeman and Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall on managing COVID-19 cases at Wilson. She said that the delay in reporting positive cases to the school community is a result of “the sheer volume of communications,” that the DCPS communications team is required to send out. 

On Tuesday, December 21, asymptomatic testing was canceled school-wide, due to the upcoming holiday break. 

According to Robinson, if students tested positive for COVID, they would not be contacted until Wednesday, December 23 or Thursday, December 24, which is after the break begins.“The contact tracers that work for the DCPS and the DCPS communications team, [are] also going to take a vacation,” she said.

That same day 27 teachers were absent, and on the previous day, 23 teachers were absent. 

Bargeman and Hall were absent on Tuesday, December 21. Both have been contacted via email for comment.

As the number of cases increases at Wilson, students, and teachers are choosing to not attend school. In junior Luisa Vasquez’s class on Monday, half of the students were absent. 

“My classes today were a lot smaller and I know a bunch of teachers are out right now, so it doesn’t really make sense why we have to go to school for these three days,” junior Skylar Gatley said. 

Senior Kat Menditto’s AP Probability and Statistics class was also nearly half empty. She noted that the students did not attend because they were exposed or they didn’t feel comfortable going.

According to the District’s official coronavirus website, Wilson has had a total of 17 cases this school year.

Three people in Menditto’s class tested positive last week, but she was only notified of one case in an email from the Wilson administration. She received another email for a positive case this week, five days after the student had last attended school.

Senior Marie May had a similar experience when she tested positive this past Friday. After notifying the school the same day, she was informed by peers in her math class that they were never officially notified of her case.

If a student tests positive symptomatically, it is their responsibility to report themselves. If a student tests positive through the school’s random asymptomatic testing system, Bargeman is automatically notified.

When a student tests positive for COVID, Bargeman must manually enter the individual case into an incident reporting system. The Wilson administration will then identify and email anyone who is a close contact with the student who tested positive. Once the contact tracing is completed, the information is sent to DCPS Central Office and the Wilson community is notified in an email.

There remains a large amount of unprocessed positive cases because Bargeman must enter each positive case and all close contacts; there is no way for him to expedite the process. 

Despite concern from rising cases, as part of DCPS, Wilson cannot decide to close as an individual school. They must receive approval from Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. 

“These types of decisions require approval from our central office and are not made at the school level,” Bargeman said in his weekly email.

Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall said that existing COVID-19 guidelines will remain the same, including the goal of testing 20 percent of the student population weekly. Wilson students are required to wear masks in school while attending indoor sporting events, and while competing in sports events in practices.

The Local Education Agency (LEA) lifted the mandate while partaking in athletic activities in early December, but reinforced it as cases began to spike. 

To help keep Wilson students safe, Hall encouraged that, “students continue to wear their masks and wash hands frequently,” adding that, “all students [should] be prepared for and take asymptomatic tests when scheduled, and participate [in them] so that we can get an accurate number of cases in our building.”

Four schools in DCPS closed on December 20 due to positive COVID cases among staff, joined by five more schools to close on December 21. A total of eight schools will have virtual instruction leading up to winter break, which starts on Thursday, December 23.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a citywide action plan, extending winter break to end on January 4. The extension is to ensure appropriate time for testing of each staff member and student. Members of the Wilson community will be expected to pick up rapid antigen tests from the school.

After winter break, Wilson is currently set to reopen on January 5. 


As this is a developing situation, The Beacon’s coverage will update periodically as we gain new information.