How Teachers are Dealing with Mass COVID-19 Related Absences

Samantha Ramirez, Writer

As of late, Downey High School along with high schools across the state are being heavily affected by a surge in Coronavirus cases. Prior to California’s K-12 schools going out for winter break, the COVID-19 positivity rate was at 5%– and now staggering 20.4%, upon students’ return. With the highly transmissible omicron variant going around, mass amounts of students as well as staff are absent and having to quarantine in order to keep our Downey High community safe. 

Students were provided with rapid tests to take home during their 5th period class on Friday, January 8. Students were not required to test themselves, but were provided with them in order to see who was cleared to attend school the following week. 

The surge in cases has sparked fears and concerns from students such as Andrew Ramirez, 9,  about possibly returning to distance learning.“I think the school is taking a step in the right direction [by providing tests] to make sure Downey students are safe so we don’t have to return to online learning, which has had a negative impact on many students including me.”

 Governor of California, Gavin Newsom as well as other state leaders have vowed to keep schools open as “kids are suffering from all of this turmoil and lack of association with their peers and it’s not normal and it’s not healthy”. Teachers are having to adapt to these obstacles in order to ensure their students keep learning in the face of the pandemic. Here is what a few of our very own Downey teachers had to say on the situation:

Ms. Kasner, an English teacher at DHS, says “It’s hard from a teacher’s standpoint to keep track of everything and make sure that students have equal access to the curriculum, but obviously their health is the most important thing”. 

Downey teachers have been trying to make things easier for those quarantining by putting all assignments and class resources on Canvas; Math teacher, Mrs. Meade has taken to recording lectures and putting them on Canvas so that students are able to watch the lessons and understand the material better. 

 Even with teachers and staff putting their best effort forward, there are varying opinions about the necessity of returning to full time distance learning. When asked if it is necessary to return to distance learning given the staff shortages and student absences, Botany and Link Crew leadership teacher, Ms. Lee, simply replied “Yes.”

When asked the same question,  Spanish teacher and resident life coach, Mrs. Roybal stated, “I think it’s a possibility, it’s not the best alternative because I ask most of  my students ‘Would you prefer to be at home doing your distance learning?’– there was nobody that raised their hand that said they would prefer to be home”. She continued by saying, “Me, I like being able to see my students in person, but if it gets to the point where it’s just rampant – we may have to, hopefully for a very short time”.

 Ms. Kasner thinks otherwise, she stated, “I think probably no;, I feel like at least at Downey High School we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the problems, so I think it’s important to have students be in school”.

Whatever the outcome may be, it is important that Downey High community keep each other safe by following COVID regulations– wearing masks, sanitizing their work stations, etc. and keep pushing.