I write to you with immense concern for my fellow classmates on the Close regarding reopening.
Mask above nose and lunch in hand, I braved the pandemic, which was reaching all-time infection highs, for my first day of in-person school since last March. To the administration’s credit, classrooms felt distanced and the Magnus App provided me with a blanket of COVID security. At lunch, though, I noticed clusters of unmasked people, including myself and my friends, eating and talking and then watched as their relaxed attitude about the pandemic translated into a lack of social distancing at sports practices and maskless weekend plans. Nonetheless, I hoped my first week back was safe and Covid-free.
The next Monday, I received a dreaded text which I had somehow dodged for the first eight months of the pandemic - I was exposed to someone who was presumed to have COVID-19 at school. I rushed to a testing center and then proceeded to wait three hours to get a COVID test. It wasn’t until over 30 hours later that I received an email that I had been exposed to a presumed positive COVID test and should quarantine for 14 days. For the rest of the week, I sat in my room on Zoom during the day and worried about the health of my family during sleepless nights. I’m writing this now, still in quarantine.
I share this not to shame anyone with COVID – for it could be any of us with a positive test – but instead to express my contempt for an administration that I feel failed to address the ongoing pandemic equitably and meticulously.
While the Close is a bubble in many ways, it is not immune to the impacts of COVID. NCS & STA decided to reopen at the peak of the third wave while daily cases in the US were increasing at exponential rates. They continued to allow students to break COVID guidelines by not enforcing their covenant – unlike other independent schools – and then expect somehow that students and families wouldn’t bring the disease to the Close. At school, there was no enforcement of social distancing at lunch or sports. Then, when students inevitably transferred COVID at school – and they did – the administration acted slowly and secretly to try to contain the spread of the disease and save face.
In fact, in my experience, the containment of COVID-19 was completely on students. I was contacted by a student that I had been exposed to COVID 30 hours before the school contacted me – a complete failure of communication. Furthermore, the school relied on families to get their children tested. Testing in DC is an intensely inequitable process because you can pay $250 to get an unreliable rapid test or you have to wait in a line for hours and hours in DC – with a parent and your insurance. In Maryland, some testing sites have closed because of testing shortages. What is a student to do then? My school, which knew I had been exposed and knows the inequities of testing in the DMV decided to let students and their families figure it out.
I hope the schools will acknowledge that they failed their students in reopening. They promised a safe environment and yet COVID still got transferred from one student to another. They promised that online students would still have a good online class experience and yet I was unable to fully engage remotely. And finally, they promised to act in our best interests. Yet, they seemed to open the school to appease parents and their board.
As for me, after Thanksgiving, I will not be going back to school. I went to school for four days and got exposed to COVID-19. I, as long as my classmates who now have COVID or spent their Thanksgivings in quarantine, were let down by an administration that promised to act in my best interest.