Column: Prosper student says Omicron makes online school option necessary

Writer discusses effect of new variant, experiences of peers, self

A+half-empty+classroom+sits+while+students+await+the+final+bell+for+the+day.+The+Algebra+2+classroom+typically+has+a+student+in+every+seat+in+the+room%2C+but+is+only+filled+to+half+its+capacity+due+to+students+being+sick+from+COVID-19.+I+think+online+school+should+be+offered+again%2C+sophomore+Kwasi+Boamah+said.+People+get+sick+and+they+dont+quarantine+or+social+distance+because+they+are+afraid+of+missing+out%2C+on+school+their+friends+or+whatever.+The+school+has+become+a+hotspot+for+COVID-19.

Cate Emma Warren

A half-empty classroom sits while students await the final bell for the day. The Algebra 2 classroom typically has a student in every seat in the room, but is only filled to half its capacity due to students being sick from COVID-19. “I think online school should be offered again,” sophomore Kwasi Boamah said. “People get sick and they don’t quarantine or social distance because they are afraid of missing out, on school their friends or whatever. The school has become a hotspot for COVID-19.”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Your phone buzzes. You pick it up and find a text message with your COVID-19 test results waiting for you. You unlock your screen to find that, you are COVID-19 positive. Now what?

For students, the district website states 10 days of isolation. And, with the updated CDC guidelines, five days of isolation and five days with wearing a mask for teachers thanks to an allowance made because of the teacher shortage. For students, 10 days of quarantine means you will be missing all of your classes. This includes AP or Dual Credit courses that can be hard, if not impossible, to catch up on or get back on track.

“At the moment, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has consumed my life in such a short period of time,” sophomore Anna Stringer said. “Being in a setting where there are constantly people around you who have been exposed to a highly contagious virus causes a lot of anxiety. Despite my efforts of trying to protect myself against the virus, I contracted and tested positive for this new variant. For the last 10 days, I have struggled immensely to keep up with my coursework and simultaneously care for my well-being. It is stressful and scary having a virus that has taken so many (lives) and work on your school assignments at the same time. I have fallen behind in all of my classes, and it’s very stressful trying to catch up.”

This is the reality of possibly 83 of my peers – at least according to the district “Covid Case Notification” page on Jan. 19. Last semester seemed better, but not back to normal. Over the holidays, the increase in COVID-positive numbers throughout Texas with the outbreak of the Omicron variant made me decide wearing a mask is the best option. I am vaccinated and boosted, but why I am still scared?

Students walk to their next class during passing period. This year, masks were made optional, a majority of students have chosen to go to school without a mask. However, after the holiday break, a large group of students returned with their masks on. “Yes I think (online school) should be offered again,” junior Tate Lauby said. “With people wanting to feel safe or having limited access of being able to come to school if they are sick, the option of online school should be offered.” (Cate Emma Warren)

“I know for one thing I’ve definitely seen a blatant increase in sickness again and it feels like the beginning of last year all over again,” junior Lauren Grammer said. “I have a lot of friends who have gotten sick again and who are wearing masks again, myself included. Mostly, I think there was a time during the middle of the pandemic where I think we all grew a bit more comfortable thinking it was behind us, so this variant and another wave of sickness has reminded all of us to keep our guard up and not just assume everything is normal again.”

Some of my friends had to spend Christmas in their bedrooms and away from their families in order to keep them safe. Others did not know they had it until they had met up with their entire extended family. This variant is harsh and very contagious, and it is likely that if one person in your friend group has it, you will too – symptomatic or asymptomatic.

“Being quarantined really fueled my depression making it harder to be motivated,” senior Marlee Parrish said. “Although it was nice to have time to breathe, it was scary not knowing what was going to happen next or when I would be able to safely be around my friends and family again.”

With all of this, I believe our school district should offer online learning again. As we did last year, where people had the option to stay in-person or they could continue their education asynchronously. This would allow students who have tested positive to continue to stay caught up with their work and allow students who are immunocompromised or who have family members who are immunocompromised. People who are exposed to the virus would be able to quarantine, and not come to school afraid of missing out on their work, as well as keeping even more people from getting sick.

“I think offering online school would be a very beneficial thing for Prosper to do again,” junior Cooper Smith said. “With the amounts of students and teachers missing, trying to function at a normal rate becomes difficult. This should be put back in place especially with students that are high risk, or if they have family that is high risk. Overall I think making online school an option again is the safest thing Prosper can do for its students and staff.”

Parents will be allowed to electronically submit a total of only five absence notes during the school year. Once you have exceeded this maximum, all absences will be considered unexcused. Students will not be restricted (quarantined) for exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual as long as the student does not have symptoms.”

— PISD Website

In reality, there are current students who are not reporting their positive tests to the district in order to not be sent home, due to the risk of not being able to graduate. There are even students who do go through with the five-day quarantine but don’t wear their masks when they come back.

“(The five-day mask mandate) should be enforced for kids with the vaccine,” junior Mikayla Sexton said. “The kids who don’t have the vaccine should have it longer. Also, if we re-instated the mask mandate it would be so much easier for the teachers and students because there would be less COVID-19 cases. If we reinforced the mask mandate it would be less likely that we would move to virtual learning because we are containing and stopping the spread of Omicron.”

It seems like a normal thing now for students to talk about how they had COVID-19 last week, or currently have it and are still at school not wearing a mask. Quarantine for students can be seen in two different ways: for some a way to catch up on work, or a few seasons of a new TV series, however, a majority of others find it confining and limiting their little freedom as teenagers.

There is only so much time left for our seniors, and will the junior class ever have a ‘proper’ year of high school? It is hard to put into retrospect, so most people keep looking forward, but at this point, do we really know what tomorrow will bring?