Camas High school recently turned to four days a week of in-person learning on the week of April 19th. This change came after a month of hybrid learning, where students would come in two days a week. It has been a big adjustment for students and staff, everyone has mixed feelings. Hopefully, most can agree, it’s about time for something that feels normal.
Now that Washington State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have given the all-clear for schools to let students be three feet apart instead of six when they have their masks on, Camas High School could let a much larger amount of kids into the building.
Mrs.Pitassi, the Dean of Students at CHS says, ¨Studies came out that showed 3ft was showing the same transition rates as six feet, the CDC changes guidance, then our Department Of Health changes theirs and then Clark County Public health changes their guidance and that’s what we get.”
The exact number of students marked as in-person is 1400-1500, but the actual number of students coming into the building is closer to 1200-1300, leaving about half of the school remote and half in person.
This past week has looked a lot different than school ever has with an extended 7 minutes instead of the normal five for passing period. This was prolonged for teachers to be able to have enough time to clean their classrooms before the next group of students comes in. Desks are three feet apart, there is a limited number of students in each classroom, there are three separate lunches to spread students out. On Camas´ COVID dashboard they say, “Hard surfaces and frequently touched areas such as stair rails and doorknobs are wiped down with a disinfectant solution multiple times a day. Cafeteria surfaces are disinfected before and after each lunch. Buses are wiped down between routes.” Even more cleaning protocols the school is following every day to keep students safe, you can find all of these on Camas High Schools website under the COVID-19 dashboard.
Even with all the safety precautions, many students remain remote, and even some staff members. There have been some students voicing their concerns like this anonymous sophomore who says “I know they say they have the kids in mind but with the constant rushing reopenings and shoving the kids back in, they haven’t even adjusted the precautions made. overall my main concerns are how rushed this ‘plan seems to be and how the people making the decisions seem like they have this mentality that the kids want to be normal and the more kids the better. When in turn it actually is pushing kids into a potentially harmful situation.”
Dionne Le, a senior at Camas High school voices some similar concerns as well. She says “I do have safety concerns because every day of in-person school we get an email that a new person tested positive for COVID. It’s scary to know that even with all the perimeters the school sent there is still a new case every day. I don’t really like 4 days a week because COVID cases are skyrocketing and I don’t think going in person for four days is worth the amount of COVID cases that it leads to.” But, when asked if she is worried about a coronavirus outbreak in school or even the amount of cases rising to an unsafe level, she says, ¨It’s always a possibility I feel like we have really good procedures and protocols in place and the research is showing that everything we are doing is safe.” Besides one community outbreak that occurred in our first week of the two-day hybrid schedule, there has not yet had a school outbreak, we have had multiple cases that have been contact traced and safely handled.
Mrs. Pitassi says “We haven’t had a school outbreak yet, I don’t think it’s very likely at this point we will have an outbreak where we have to actually shut down school again.”
Other students feel differently and are excited about returning to school and feeling safe under our new COVID guidelines. Senior Emme Speas says, “I first had gotten used to all on-demand then also used to only two days a week. I think at some point I will fall back into a routine with 4 days back but that will just take time. I feel safe COVID-wise just because I plan on getting fully vaccinated and I think the teachers and administrators do a good job at promoting the 3-foot and 6-foot space. All in all, this is just another schedule I will have to get used to.”
Senior Ivan Mac Alevy says, “I have no concerns. I think it’s the greatest idea ever.” Students with any concerns at all, Mrs. Pitassi urges you to reach out to admin, teachers, or your counselor with any questions or concerns. She says “we just want students and families to feel safe and be able to access their learning, we know that in some circumstances people can’t come into school.”
If we do end up in a scenario where there is a COVID case at school, they contact trace it back to the source as in the first person to have it at the school. Meaning they will find out everyone who was in close contact with the person and they will either be tested on quarantine depending on the situation. Close contact is considered anyone who was in contact within 6ft for 15 minutes or longer. “When we see a positive case we pull records of where that student has been and quarantine anyone who was within that 6 feet for 15 minutes.”
How long they quarantine depends on seven different scenarios (shown in flowchart photo) Mrs. Pitassi says case three is the most likely. She adds, “ïf we quarantine a student they can’t return for seven days, they cant return after day 8 since their exposure. But that’s contingent upon a negative test result. If they choose not to test, they can come back in 10 days if they show no symptoms.” It’s hard to give an exact answer because situations are so case-dependent.
Mrs. Pitassi says they plan to continue with this four days a week schedule for the rest of the year because “We know everyone’s a little fatigued on change.”
On that note, the school district is encouraging eligible students and staff (sixteen years or older) to get their vaccination. No one knows what school will look like next year, but hopefully, things will continue to get better.