Should Downey High School Shut Down or Remain Open?

Catherine Quinones, Writer

For the past two years, the lengthy pandemic has festered worldwide, bringing a model of uncertainty for what the future might hold. However, just as we thought we would be able to return to some normalcy, the discovery of the Omicron variant pushed back the progress we thought to have made. According to Lorena Garcia, an epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, she explains that “The viral load is much higher in Omicron, which means that someone infected with the Omicron variant is more infectious than someone infected with the Delta variant.” So what does this mean for in-person students currently attending Downey High? The debate over whether or not schools should return to distance learning or stay as it now raises concerns for the health of students and safety of their families. 


For senior Brianna Guiterrez, she explains that “Due to the rise in COVID cases, I would much rather do distance learning because there is a higher chance of us getting sick and being more exposed to the virus at school.” Not only is she a student, but as an athlete on the lacrosse team Guiterrez is “concerned about starting our season, given it is a contact sport and many teams that we play against do not wear masks. It is concerning whether or not our season could possibly be canceled.” 


While prioritizing one’s health remains of much importance, there are also detrimental effects in staying isolated for so long. If schools do decide to return back to distance learning, the consequences of growing paranoia and dread with surges comes at a hefty price. Emily Ayestas, 11, states that “I would not want to go back online or hybrid because the social interaction had been so scarce. Coming back this year really helped me with maintaining mental stability and a positive mindset.”  


Unlike LAUSD who is enforcing, “all students and employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to participate in ongoing weekly COVID-19 testing” Downey had just recently and finally been considerate enough to distribute test kits for students. Going off the honors system- not enforcing us to show if we tested negative or positive- does little to make us feel safe surrounded by four thousand other adolescents who are potential transmitters. Kyla Villanueva, 12, stresses how “Half the kids at school do not wear their masks right, some wearing it under their noses or not at all, even when they are not eating and are walking in the hallways.” 


This constantly vicious cycle of protocols and mandates calls attention to the fact that “new cases were reported, more than doubling the January 2021 peak” according to the CDC. Even Downey’s Superintendent, Dr. Garcia, released a video  in regards to the “academic and social well- being” of those in the district. Their mission statement for “productive” learning can of course and most obviously happen in a classroom where numerous students and teachers are out sick, desks are left bare, as the fear for what is to happen next consumes our thoughts.