As Lowell students and staff return to campus from winter break, Lowell has seen an increase in student absences. This is largely due to a surge in coronavirus cases — fuelled by the Omicron variant — in San Francisco, with more students becoming infected with the virus. Many other students have received close contact emails notifying students, parents, and teachers about their exposure to the virus. Due to the heightened infectiousness transmission of the new variant and the increase in cases, Principal Joe Dominguez and the Lowell administration chose to send close contact memos to every student in the same class as a student who tested positive for the virus. This contrasts with fall semester’s close contact procedures, which only notified students who sat near a student who had the coronavirus.
For students, the spike in both infections and close contact memos has changed their outlook on returning back to school. Junior Zoey Zhu noticed fewer students in her classes when she returned to school after break. The increase in cases at school has left her fearful about the increasing possibility of also getting infected. Some students like junior Breanna Lew received a close contact memo after the first day of the spring semester. Lew feels that the growing threat of the coronavirus has impacted her everyday activities. “It’s definitely going to make me more conscious of health risks like eating lunch, because our masks are off, or playing basketball,” she said.
Jane, a senior using a pseudonym, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is currently isolating at home. Due to the mandatory quarantine guidelines, she’s worried about having to catch up with schoolwork. “Missing the first week of macro [economics] and all the fundamental things is definitely scaring me,” she said. “If I’m already gonna fall behind on that it’s just gonna be harder to go even further along with the class.” Mark, another student using a pseudonym, tested positive for the coronavirus during winter break, but returned to school on Tuesday after a negative COVID-19 test. Despite only missing one day of school, he has already suffered academic consequences, including staying up late to catch up on missed school work.
Jane believes that remaining in an in-person learning format will only further exacerbate the spread of the virus. “Everyone going back to school is just exposing more and more people, ” she said. Students propose different solutions to this issue. Mark believes online learning should play a part, seeing as cases are increasing and student absences become more common. “We need to notice the patterns and go into a hybrid [model] for at least a week or so,” he said. Zhu is more cautious, and believes that shutting school down altogether for a week is the right step to take.