SUHSD updates COVID-19 protocols in compliance with CDC guidelines amidst Omicron surge


Eiffel Sunga

Students of the zero period Speech, Communications and Theater class gather around Assistant Principal Esther Wise. The class was called to the Parent Center to take individual COVID-19 tests after a student tested positive.

Following the persistent and growing cases of COVID-19 across Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) campuses, preventative measures and guidelines are continuously updated. A weekly COVID-19 update is sent to district families debriefing the latest changes. With the appearance of the Omicron variant, district COVID-19 cases surged in January. Protocols remain a constantly changing thing for schools across SUHSD.

“These guidelines are overwhelming, hard to follow sometimes, and maybe we’re just tired of following them. But at the end of the day we just wanna keep the school open, so we’ll follow them,” BVH Assistant Principal Esther Wise said. 

On Feb. 6, SUHSD announced their most recent change to contact tracing protocols—asking all students to complete COVID-19 testing weekly, regardless of vaccination status and school participation. The protocol went into effect on Feb. 7, and stated that parents will be notified if and when results come positive.  

 “[It’s] to ensure that students can maintain learning in person,” the SUHSD video announcement said.

Additionally, new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols were updated on Jan. 18. The new policy allows symptomless studentsregardless of vaccination statusto test again on the fifth day of isolation, and if proof of negative test results is provided, the student will be allowed to return to campus the following day. Previously, students were required to spend a full 11 days off campus.  

Reportedly, protocols were adjusted to stay “consistent with guidance” given by the California Department of Public Health, as well as the San Diego County Office of Education. The updated isolation period has since been adopted by BVH, where COVID-19 cases have increased by 84 percent from January to December. Wise emphasizes how a positive case may be different for everyone, and how the updated regulations will give families more autonomy in deciding if students’ are healthy enough to return.  

“It depends on how you’re gonna manage it [COVID-19] at home, but it just gives the parents and students more choices,” Wise said.   

Wise expresses that although some students may be eager to take advantage of the opportunity to return to in-person instruction on day six, their health should always be the number one priority in making the decision to return to campus.

“Ask for help when needed. Just know that teachers will work with you,” Wise said. “We want you to get better, that’s the most important thing. [It’s] so that [when students return] you’re able to produce high level work, as you usually do.”

We want you to get better, that’s the most important thing.

— Assistant Principal Esther Wise

Missing school for a period of time due to a COVID-19 related absence has been a source of stress for both students and teachers. With these additional guidelines, students may be eligible to return to school sooner rather than later. Wise hopes that students who stress over the completion of their work over hybrid learning remember to communicate with their teachers. 

“A lot of our high achieving students aren’t used to asking for help, so they have to step outside their comfort zone and ask for help if they need it,” Wise said.  

Alongside changes to quarantine protocol, Wise states one of the “biggest recent changes” to COVID-19 preventative measures is the school’s recent acquisition of N95 masks. These supplies were provided by the state. Masks are distributed at the ASB, where any student can pick one up throughout the day. Currin, although acknowledging the effectiveness of N95 masks, urges all students to wear any properly fitting mask at all times.  

“We’re just gonna keep circling through this pandemic if we’re all not following the guidelines in school. We have a large number of students here, [so we’ll] do whatever we can do to keep everybody healthy and on campus,” Bonita Vista High (BVH) Nurse Bernadette Currin said.  

Currinwho jokingly tells students, “nobody wants to see your nose” when she catches them incorrectly wearing their mask—hopes students continue to practice self screening even when they’re allowed back on campus.

“Our school community is always very proactive in keeping everybody safe. Everybody is usually airing on the side of caution, in a good way,” Wise said. “We want schools to remain open, we want to see our friends and get in-person instruction from teachers. Even though these things [COVID-19 protocols] are hard to do, we’re doing them anyway.”  

For SUHSD and BVH, the goal is to keep the school open, and allow students to continue their education in-person. 

“We want you [students] to get that opportunity, to get that instruction first hand, because we know that at home…” Wise said, trailing off with a frown as she shakes her head. “It’s really important that students know what we’re dealing with.”