During a pandemic, how safe are we really on campus?

By Diana Arutyunyan

We are finally back on campus. Everything seems to be back to normal, minus being required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. 

However, a lot of students do not maintain social distance. During nutrition and lunch, students sit with each other without masks, often hugging or leaning over Chromebooks. Students also touch a lot of high-touch surfaces throughout the day. 

So, there comes the question: How safe are we on campus with Covid still such a pressing issue?

The school has close to 5000 students, so it was no easy task for administration and staff to make coming back on campus for students and teachers as safe as possible. There were many new procedures that had to be invented and then implemented to make it work.

Online learning was hard for students and teachers alike, so many were excited to come back. At the same time, all of us were worried about returning because Covid is still spreading.

After a year of staff working hard on getting us back to school, we have a lot of things to do in order to stay safe and make the people around us safe so school won’t be closed again.

“We do a lot of things to prevent Covid cases on campus such as wearing masks, having the health screening app, and weekly Covid testing, so we are safe on campus,” school nurse Crystal Ngo said. 

The ParentLocker app is a health screening tool that allows the school to check students for symptoms before entering campus. If a student receives a green mark, they can come to school, but if a student receives a red mark, then they will need to complete some extra steps in order to come to school or will be asked to quarantine at home. There is also now an orange mark that means students may attend classes, but not extracurricular activities for a certain time period as that requires closer contact.

“If a person receives a red mark, we need a doctor’s note about those symptoms that a student has. They also need to take a rapid test,” Ngo said. 

The school is able to complete these rapid tests in fifteen minutes, which is very useful because it allows the school to quickly figure out if someone is sick without them missing too much of first period.

Of course, students on campus have to wear face masks and maintain social distance. There are no problems with masks because the only time students take them off is while eating, but there is a problem with social distancing. With nearly 5,000 students in school, it is not always possible to maintain the proper social distancing requirements. The lines for the bathrooms are particularly challenging.

Contact tracing is constantly happening on campus. One way the Covid Response Team works to complete contact tracing is through stable seating charts in each class. Teachers update their seating charts in their grading program so that the administration always has access to them and can track who may have been exposed.

Knowing that social distancing will be a challenge, the school also provides ample personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hand sanitizer in each classroom.

The school does a lot of things to help to stop the spread of Covid, and it has been effective. According to the school’s Covid dashboard on the website, as of September 19, there are currently only 12 confirmed student cases and 2 confirmed staff cases of Covid. There have been 54 students and 16 staff who have previously been confirmed positive. At less than 0.3 percent of the population, clearly GHC has done a great job in preventing the spread of COVID.