It’s almost as if the school has collectively been pretending that COVID doesn’t exist. If you look past the masks and the testing and the Safely survey, you get a school experience that seems just like how it was in fall 2019. That’s how the student body has been living — under a wordless, but […]
It’s almost as if the school has collectively been pretending that COVID doesn’t exist. If you look past the masks and the testing and the Safely survey, you get a school experience that seems just like how it was in fall 2019. That’s how the student body has been living — under a wordless, but well-understood agreement that COVID isn’t a factor anymore.
It’s a harsh dose of reality, then, when someone you know, or even you, gets sick. Even when someone is absent in a class, the first thought is to COVID and to what that diagnosis might entail.
So what happens to the people who fall ill? And what’s stopping them from infecting everybody in the school?
“Obviously,” says Assistant Dean of School Safety and Security Mr. Matthew Taylor-Viruet, “our first line of defense is checking the Safely app.”
Having your Safely app checked every day might be how you recognize this new dean. Along with Dean Mr. Joe Flores and Assistant Principal of Student Life and Instruction Mr. Julian Elorduy ’03, Mr. Taylor mans the gates every morning to check the ubiquitous app. Even though this 15-second-long survey seems like a triviality, Mr. Taylor cannot overemphasize its importance.
“When we have you guys check in, Safely can actually do contact tracing,” he says. Safely tracks at what time you “check in” and to whom you were close to in both location and time. This allows school officials to monitor who could have given COVID to whom.
Mr. Elorduy has kind words for the Safely app as well. “It’s not a perfect app by any means, but it reminds us that we’re out of the woods,” he says. “You can’t see the virus, maybe not in your midst or family or community, but it’s still out there.”
Another essential part of COVID response is testing. “We are one of the only schools in the area that is doing weekly testing, so we’re trying to test all staff and all students on Thursday and Friday,” Mr. Taylor adds. Scheduled testing allows the school to ensure that all COVID cases are made known so that they can be dealt with accordingly.
If there are issues with the testing process, the school is made aware of that as well. “From there, we get alerts if we’ve had any students with a positive or an inconclusive test,” Mr. Taylor elaborates. Contact tracing and seating charts can then be used to identify possibly exposed students.
Mr. Elorduy has a central role in using the tests as a tool to protect the health of students. “I make sure the testing is happening, coordinating people that maybe were out during testing day, making sure they get one one way or the other, and contacting the lab if and when we get a positive diagnosis,” he says in regards to his role on campus.
Testing takes the guesswork out of the picture and makes determining the proper health measures to be taken that much easier. “We know exactly who is negative in our community every week,” Mr. Elorduy says. “It makes us all rest a little bit easier.”
The daily ritual of checking students in also has a silver lining for the deans. “It’s kind of cool to check in with students and say hi, which we haven’t done in the past — you just walked on campus,” the assistant principal says.
If all else fails, in the unfortunate incident of exposure, Mr. Elorduy points out that it really pays to be vaccinated. “Everybody that’s exposed can continue to go to school,” he says, “but if they’re unvaccinated, they can’t participate in extracurricular activities.” That means no sports and no clubs for at least seven days.
But if you do receive that dreaded call or type in your birthday on a COVID test e-mail to reveal your positive test result, the question remains: what about school?
While no digital option for education is offered this year, that doesn’t mean that students must put a complete hold on their education if they have to quarantine. “Some teachers do a flipped model, so they can send home a video [lecture] for everybody,” says Mr. Elorduy. “The counselors or I can loop in all of the teachers [of a student] to create a channel of communication to let the teachers know what’s going on.”
Things are looking up for CB’s heads of COVID response. “This year, we’ve had a pretty limited case rate. We’ve had several weeks where we haven’t had any positive diagnoses,” shares Mr. Elorduy. The hard work that these administrators have done is paying off, as CB has remained in person and on campus so far without disruption.
Mr. Elorduy does not want students to get complacent, however, and take being at school for granted as it has always been in the past. “All it takes is one party going wrong, and if you have more than three diagnoses within a certain period of time, that’s considered an outbreak. And in those cases, if it gets really bad, the potential for our school to return back to remote instruction is there. It’s possible.”
COVID rules and regulations may seem strict or overbearing at times, but Mr. Elorduy assures me that they are enforced out of concern for the student body. “We’re doing everything we can to avoid [a return to digital learning]. So if the teachers or deans are bugging people about masks, it’s because we’re trying to keep us on campus.”
So keep your masks on and get vaccinated, CB — hopefully, the curve will continue to be flattened.