Petition to close schools in response to Omicron


Photo Courtesy to Chicago Health Magazine

In response to a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the new Omicron variant, FHS junior Jai Bhatia created a petition on the website calling for the FUHSD administration to temporarily go back to online learning.

The recent surge in cases puts the cases per day at almost five times higher than the previous maximum last year, when all FUHSD schools were conducting learning online. The creator of this petition, Bhatia, thought that this was inconsistent.

“I was thinking we were closed last year,” Bhatia said. “So why aren’t we closed now?”

In response to this, FHS Principal Bryan Emmert discussed the differences between the current COVID-19 situation and the one two years ago. Compared to March 2020, the current case count is higher; however, the number of deaths are less than that in March 2020, as the Omicron variant spreads quickly but is not as deadly as previous Covid-19 variants.

“What we saw in March of 2020 was the number of deaths and people that needed to be hospitalized, was going up really, really fast,” Emmert said. “And it doesn’t seem to be the same thing right now.”

Additionally, arguments against going online include that online learning is isolating; people learn less overall in online classes (some course units are not included in remote learning), and classes have a slower pace compared to in-person. However, Bhatia would still be willing to go online.

“[Online learning] felt kind of lonely,” Bhatia said. “So it kind of sucked. But honestly, I would be willing to go through that to feel safe at school.”

Emmert’s plan is to not go online unless it becomes necessary. Currently, Emmert is following the recommendations of the Santa Clara County Health Department, which has recommended that schools stay in-person. But, Emmert has accommodations to account for the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

“[There was] information I put out to the staff around trying to make stuff available online,” Emmert said. “One of the nice things is, when we went to remote [learning], we really hadn’t ramped up our use of Schoology. [Now], [teachers are] making sure assignments are [posted]; there are lecture slides that [teachers] can put up and also just work with students to say what’s critical that [students should] make up and what maybe isn’t as critical. [We are] trying to reduce stress because we know [that] we’re telling students is [if] you’re sick, stay home.”

Emmert also touched on how COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant affects everyone differently; as some have mild symptoms, whereas others experience a more severe version of COVID-19. Additionally, teachers have to contend with contracting the virus, and then having to quarantine. Teachers have also dealt with having to take time-off because of family members contracting the virus.

“So each teacher is going to deal with it differently, but the direction was really [to] try to provide as much information so [that] if the staff or students are out with COVID, [everything could run smoothly],” Emmert said. “Some are just knocked outright and they can’t do anything. They’re really sick. They just can’t get out of bed; others have minimal symptoms, but they tested positive and therefore they’re not allowed to return.”          

Despite the risks of infection and having to quarantine, students are still divided on whether to go back to remote learning. However, students, like Bhatia, have expressed their concerns about the inherent dangers of current in-person school in these COVID-19 times — it places students into dangerous situations due to how easy the Omicron variant can spread — and instead prefer to return to remote learning for a few months. However, Principal Emmert and the FUHSD will most likely continue to keep school in-person, as long as the county health department continues recommending that schools stay open.