COVID resources introduced to mitigate pressure on staff

Riley Hawkinson

Amid the recent surge of the new COVID variant Omicron causing a rapid increase of COVID cases, DCPS issued a new mandate to alleviate pressure on school officials to manage the abundance of COVID resources and responsibilities.

Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall noted that he believes Wilson has access to necessary COVID resources, including PPE that is replenished weekly, monthly, or as needed. 

“We have staff to help out, we have patient care technicians who are here dealing with symptomatic students and administering antigen tests. We have [antigen] tests on site to give to students as needed,” Hall added.

 In the last four weeks of school, only 7 percent of the Wilson student population have tested positive for COVID. 

DCPS central office plans to employ COVID tracers at all DCPS schools arriving in mid-February. The District mandated measure would include the spending of $40 million in order to hire contact tracers, substitute teachers, and workers whose purpose would be to handle the COVID logistics at schools. The funding will enable DCPS to allocate each school a “COVID Strategy and Logistics Coordinator” who will lead contact tracing, student testing, and notifications to families.

These new resources will work to alleviate the stress on current staff stuck with the job of contact tracing. 

Handling COVID at school is currently a job that’s falling into the hands of the staff. Hall and Principal Gregory Bargeman are currently Wilson’s only COVID Points-of-Contact. They work on everything COVID-related, including receiving cases and reports, reporting data to DC health, performing contact tracing, and sending out community notifications. 

“It’s falling on me and other assistant principals to carry this load on top of doing our day to day work that we’ve been doing for years.” Hall noted. 

Due to staff currently having to handle COVID resources, along with doing their standard jobs, issues of communication have arisen. Math teacher Olivia Phillips says she has firsthand experience with these complications.  

“I have not been getting the communication that I’ve been told I would be. For example, I’ve had many students that have had COVID and I was told by them, and not by the school,”  Phillips said. 

She emphasized her desire for Wilson to immediately notify teachers of a positive case. Due to overflow of information and lack of personnel,  the DCPS case-reporting system experienced delays in notifying the Wilson community. 

“I think people would feel a lot more at ease [with the arrival of COVID tracers], so I think there are definitely benefits to [implementing COVID tracers] that spill out into our work,” said Social Studies teacher Michele Bollinger.•