Students fear academic setback during isolation if they test positive

Payton Anderson, Senior Staff Writer

Students were given two take-home COVID-19 tests on Wednesday in addition to access to a new weekly on-campus testing clinic in the Peery Center. Palo Alto Unified School District’s Health District Coordinator Rose Dowell said this should help PAUSD combat the current omicron outbreak. “Having a COVID clinic on campus and additional take-home tests for students will help us ensure students who are infected don’t infect their classmates,” Dowell said. (Photo: Madelyn Castro).

Despite the halving last week of the self-isolation period required after a positive Covid-19 test, some Palo Alto High School students remain anxious about how missing school could negatively impact their academics.

The change, announced Friday by district Superintendent Don Austin, states that students no longer have to wait 10 days before returning to campus. Per advice from the Center for Disease Control, students who test positive must now isolate for five days, be asymptomatic, and test negative in order to come back on campus.  

Although this decrease in isolation time is a good thing for PAUSD students and families, the fact that students must miss any amount of school is causing frustration.

Junior Ethan Wong is one of the many Paly students who tested positive in the past week. As the second semester of junior year is notorious for its academic pressure due to upcoming college applications, Wong said he was worried about the time he’d spend away from the classroom. 

“I’m very stressed about missing this much school,” Wong said. “I wish they [PAUSD] would go online already.” 

Wong said he believes the best response the district can have to the rising number of cases is to return to remote learning. 

Junior Lauren Levine also tested positive and has spent the past few days isolating in her home. Levine said she will try and keep up with her classwork through Schoology assignments despite missing the corresponding lessons. Yet, Levine said it will take her weeks to catch up with the material she missed over just a few days. 

“What would have been really helpful was going online for the first few weeks coming back from winter break,” Levine said. “Then everyone who is now at home wouldn’t have to worry about missing class.” 

PAUSD’s Health District Coordinator Rose Dowell is an overseer of the direct communication PAUSD staff has to the families of students who test positive or were potentially exposed to the virus. Dowell said she and her team continue to witness more and more students anxious about missing school to quarantine, along with frustrated parents. 

​​”This [isolating after a positive test] is what we’re required to do by the Public Health Department,” Dowell said. “Because I and many others value education, I understand why it is frustrating for students to have to miss school, but these are the guidelines we have to follow.” 

Although self isolation after a positive test has made many upset, Dowell recommends that students take a step back and appreciate all that PAUSD has provided. 

“Not all districts are able to have the same kind of COVID testing and system setup that we are able to have,” Dowell said. “It really is a privilege.” 

According to Dowell, PAUSD is trying its best to consider the academic needs of students. However, the health of staff and students will always reign as the top priority, Dowell said.

“The amount of access we have to get testing for our students and our staff to be safe and know that they’re okay is huge,” Dowell said.