Increase in COVID-19 cases affects school attendance rates

Recently elected Board member Jonathan Baker is joined by wife Courtney Baker and daughter junior Lydia Baker as he is sworn in to the Board of Education Jan. 11. Other newly elected members are Marguerethe Jaede and Joanne Pickrell. (Photo by Molly O’Dell)

Since Monday, Jan. 3, the high school has seen a spike in COVID19-related absences due to the new omicron variant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, omicron is a variant of the COVID-19 virus that is less lethal to those who are vaccinated but more contagious than other COVID-19 variants regardless of vaccination status.

From Dec. 18, 2021 to Jan. 6, 2022, there were 85 positive student cases reported in the high school, according to the Bexley City Schools COVID-19 dashboard. Furthermore, the dashboard reported that from Jan. 7 to Jan. 13, there were 25 positive cases, and from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 there were 17 positive cases. The cases over this time period account for 88% of the total reported cases this school year.

Attendance secretary Amy Hart said 18.52% of students were absent the week of Jan. 3, compared to 6.2% of students being absent during the same week in 2018.

The school expected this increase in cases upon the return of students from winter break, Assistant Principal Craig McMillen said.

“As a district and a school, we have attempted to predict and anticipate as much as possible, but forecasting the behavior of this virus is incredibly challenging,” he said.

Hart explained that the return from break was challenging for the attendance staff because so many students had tested positive.

“The first week was truly overwhelming,” Hart said. “In fact, by the time we normally send calls out, I didn’t even really know who was here and who wasn’t. It wasn’t until the end of the day where we could get that figured out.”

The district has an online form to report information for any student who tests positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms of the virus, Hart said. She added that the information from the form goes to the clinic, where they verify when the onset of symptoms was, when the student tested positive and an estimated return date.

Parents should email the school’s attendance line if their child tests positive so the attendance office can put their absences in PowerSchool, Hart explained. She said students can return to school after a five day quarantine as long as they are not experiencing symptoms. Student athletes may also return to school after five days, but they must test negative with a rapid test before returning to their sport.

Science teacher Nikki Hoch said that students who are quarantining should not initially focus on the school work that they are missing.

“First thing to do obviously is to take care of their health,” she said.

Hoch advised that once students are feeling well enough, they should contact all of their teachers to plan accordingly for their absence.

“Quarantine does greatly affect students, so that’s why I say to students please reach out to your teachers,” she said.

McMillen said students have as many days as they missed to make up their schoolwork.

Teachers are expected to have their Canvas pages updated regularly with schedules for the week, Robbins explained.

She added that teachers are not required to record their classes over Zoom, but they may choose to.

“The balancing act of how to meet all these needs is incredibly challenging,” she said.

Senior Isaiah Wilson said he tested positive for COVID-19 and then quarantined for five days.

“Quarantine sucked for me because I wasn’t able to see my friends,” Wilson explained. “I understand quarantine was necessary, but it did impact my mental health in a negative way.”

However, he said he was able to stay on top of his schoolwork because his teachers had organized their Canvas pages.

McMillen said these are challenging times, but students should know the school is aiming to function as a support system for their mental and physical health.

“Never suffer in silence,” he said. “Come talk to Ms. Robbins, come talk to me, come talk to your school counselor and your teachers.”