School during Omicron is a stressor for many

Gil Leifman

A couple of days before winter break, the usually bustling hallways of Wilson had a mere handful of students wandering through them. From December 5-12, reported COVID cases had spiked from four to 54, and the following week, cases hit an all-time high of 62. 

As Omicron tore through Wilson, students had mixed reactions to the administration and DCPS’s managment of the outbreak.

On returning to in-person school, sophomore Kelsie George reflected, “It [was] kind of nerve-racking, seeing the number of cases rise every day.” And while it may be stressful for many, freshman Lia Pollock pointed out that, “It’s important for a lot of students to have in-person learning because online was definitely difficult for people.”

On January 4 and 5, DCPS added two extra days to winter break to allow students to pick up rapid COVID tests. First, students were told to submit a picture of their test results to an online portal, causing website crashes and malfunctions for many. Then, proof of the negative test was required to enter the building, with a green sticker on students’ phones verifying their negative test results. 

Junior Radha Tanner said this system had limited benefits. “I think it was good in theory; [there need to be] some kinks worked out with the portal and the uploading system, but I think requiring testing is a good idea,” she said. 

Tanner also noted that if testing weren’t required, or only recommended, many students would not have gotten tested at all. 

George pointed out that the same sticker was used a few days later to get into the building again, limiting the accuracy of the system. When asked about the testing initiative, freshman Miles Greenberger said, “I think there were flaws in the system, but [it was] a good step in the right direction.” 

After the spike of 62 positive cases mid-December at Wilson, 11 cases were reported the following week of December 26. In the three weeks after, January 9, 16, and 23, cases dropped from 14 to 7 to 8 respectively. However, Wilson still has the most reported positive cases of any DCPS school, at a total of 180. 

Some students think there are areas for improvement. George mentioned the lack of reporting from Wilson when she remarked, “They’re not great at communicating to us about what’s exactly happening.” Due to privacy concerns, Wilson and DCPS are only allowed to say that there was a positive case in a student’s class, and cannot identify the specific individual. This could be a source of stress for many, as one is only considered a close contact in DCPS protocol if you’re within 6 feet of the positive individual for 15 minutes. 

When asked what would make him feel safer, junior Justin Smith said he desired a bit more of the original strictness in COVID guidelines, and more testing. Pollock and Greenberger both support the upcoming vaccine mandate from Mayor Bowser, effective March 1. Tanner said she wanted more strictly enforced social distancing protocols, and weekly tests, as well. The idea of COVID days, ie. singular virtual learning days in a week to curb the spread, and/or optional virtual learning was brought up by both Tanner and George. 

George warned, “If we don’t do something now, we’re going to be dealing with it for a lot longer than we all want to.” •