Cedar Shoals High School reported 109 positive COVID-19 cases in January and 23 positive cases in February between students and staff. Both Clarke County School District (CCSD) high schools conducted online learning on Jan. 20 and 21 because of teacher absences due to COVID-19.
“It’s alarming. I am frequently reminded every single day of how close of a contact I am with a kid or an adult who might have been exposed or even has COVID,” history teacher Garrett Walker said.
“When teachers are out more than a day, that actively affects the education of our students,” freshman Finland McGreevy said.
Procedures for COVID-19 at Cedar Shoals have shifted multiple times over the 2021-22 school year.
At the beginning of the 2021 semester, CCSD started contact tracing. Teachers turned in seating charts to the Cedar Shoals Nurse Eve Bisard and the CCSD contact team. They contacted all identified close contacts to individuals that were COVID-19 positive and instructed them to quarantine for ten days, recommending testing as well. If they remained symptom-free after ten days, they could return to school.
“It was a near-impossible task. It was asking the school nurses to check the 1,300 plus students and staff,” Walker said.
At the beginning of the spring 2022 semester, CCSD schools stopped contact tracing and required a five-day quarantine for anyone who tested positive or was presumed positive based on symptoms.
“Anyone that is exposed to someone with a COVID positive continues to come to work/school and follow our mitigation measures in place: wearing masks, remaining socially distanced three feet or more from others, frequent hand washing and monitors daily for illness symptoms,” Cedar Shoals Nurse Eve Bisard said.
Freshman Morraea Brandenburg has personal concerns about the shift away from precautions this spring. Some students are concerned about switching to the shorter quarantine time frame.
“I feel like they (CCSD administration) are not taking enough precautions. It’ll be easier for COVID to spread with people being able to come back to school so early when they could still be positive,” Brandenburg said.
After returning from Christmas break, positive COVID-19 cases spiked among students and staff. The changes in COVID mitigation strategies caused some teachers to be confused by their role in preventing the spread.
“When we returned, within a week and a half, a lot of my students had already gotten COVID-19,” Walker said. “I came in, and I didn’t know what my responsibility was at that moment. We don’t really get a lot of information about what to do when it comes to COVID-19.”
Some students have anxiety about being in person for school, going from almost two years online to being in-person continues to be challenging for many students and even staff to navigate.
“Most teachers are very aware of the fact that kids do need a little bit of extra support right now with trying to just adjust and get back to a regular school schedule,” Makayla Powell, English department, said.
Social anxiety plays another significant role in students’ everyday life.
“Having a lot of social anxiety and being trapped at home for so long has caused students to have lost many social skills that took many interactions to build up,” McGreevy said.
Powell thinks that clearer communication would be one way to help both students and staff.
“Communication is key in any sort of workplace environment, especially when you’re at a school like Cedar where there are so many people,” Powell said. “I know from just talking to them that they are trying their hardest and they’re having to deal with all the other moving parts. It’s not just COVID-19 that’s going on, there are plenty of other things.”