With close to 3,000 students crowded in the halls and the Fairfax county health department recording 75,084 confirmed COVID-19 cases, some students and their families may have concerns on if FCPS is safe for an in-person school year.
“I didn’t feel overwhelmed [about coming back to school], but I was definitely a little nervous,” freshman Ann Nguyen said. “I just haven’t seen this many people all at once.”
Starting Nov. 1, there will be the COVID-19 screening tests in which 10% of all non-vaccinated students and staff will be randomly chosen and required to take these screening questionnaires. On top of that, FCPS requires that all teachers be vaccinated or report to school with a negative COVID-19 test. Furthermore, field trips chaperones must have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Student athletes must also wear masks while playing when it is possible.
“During swim practice, we still have to wear a mask [by the pool],” Nguyen said. “We don’t have to wear m
asks when we swim, but once we get out of the water we have to put them back on.”
The current county safety measure in place is contact tracing and “paused learning.” Contact tracing occurs when a student or staff member is exposed to someone with a positive COVID-19 test.
“I would say it’s very challenging,” Principle Scott Poole said. “I think that school personnel across Fairfax County are pretty stressed. We can’t find substitutes, bus drivers or people to do a lot of these jobs, so it’s putting extra pressure on school staff to take care of everything.”
In order to prevent continuous spread, traced individuals will have their learning put on ‘pause’ and will be instructed to stay at home till the positive individual receives a negative test, or after five school days. Teachers who have students out because of COVID-19 are required to record and post daily lessons for said sick student and perform weekly check-ins.
“Teachers really disliked last year’s teaching style because it was just so taxing, so we are not going back to that,” Poole said. “With streaming, teachers will have a camera in a classroom, so that if a student is at home for four or five days, they can watch the teacher. But at home, students will not be able to interact with the class.”
From Aug. 23 to Sep. 19, FCPS recorded 716 COVID-19 cases across the whole county and only 12 cases since the start of school to Oct. 27.
“A vaccine mandate is a good idea,” sophomore Andy Reynolds said. “If not everyone is vaccinated, COVID-19 can still be spread through the school.”
Overall, with FCPS cleaning high touch surfaces everyday, disinfecting busses, and handing out reusable masks, students are slowly becoming accustomed to the in-school environment.
“I feel safe coming back,” Nguyen said. “Because anywhere I go in the school, I trust that people will be wearing their masks.”