Unsigned: District Fails to Enforce Sufficient COVID Procedures

…the district and schools should take extra caution when anybody is infected with the virus”

   At the end of last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was almost on its way to its bitter end. As more and more people started to get vaccinated, and the case rate plummeted, it appeared that this school year would be a “return to normalcy.” However, due to some people having conspiratorial fear of getting vaccinations and premature reopenings across the entire country, case rates are back up and deaths are skyrocketing among the unvaccinated population. Yet, somehow, the school system still operates as if COVID-19 was weaning away and the Delta variant never existed. The district remains ignorant about pandemic safety, especially when it comes to basic procedures like sanitation and social distancing, and there is a clear lack of accountability for the ambiguity of their policies.

   The San Diego Unified School District has an FAQ for in-person school which outlines the district’s reopening guidelines. The issue is, there are some concerning holes in their requirements. For example, it states that cleansing wipes are “…provided to schools to clean desks and chairs,” but nothing explicitly requires teachers or students to wipe down desks between classes like during Phase 1 of reopening (sandiegounified.org). So, oftentimes, disinfecting wipes are left in the corner of the room untouched while hundreds of students pass through and contaminate each classroom, which demonstrates a clear health hazard for the unvaccinated and potentially high-risk.

   Social distancing also seems to have been thrown out the window. Most notably, UC High’s lunch lines are insanely crowded. However, this is not at all the fault of the lunch staff. According to Food and Nutrition Services Area Supervisors Jan Wendt and Melissa Crabtree, “Our staff is severely limited, just because of economics and promotion from within… We have about five or six staff members when we should have twenty one.” With this in mind, an adequate way to address this issue on the district’s end could be to stagger school lunch times, or raise the wages for food and nutrition workers so that schools like UC High are not so severely understaffed, or even simply designate school staff members to regulate social distancing during lunch time. Instead, the district seems to have turned a blind eye to this very serious issue.

   Even considering the recent vaccine mandate, the district’s communication and accountability regarding COVID-19 infection is not up to date with the most recent scientific developments. The district’s Reopening Guide states that students or staff in close contact with a vaccinated person infected with COVID-19 are “recommended” to get tested, while it seems everyone exposed continues to attend school without quarantining (sandiegounified.org). Many might assume that this is perfectly reasonable, as vaccines continue to provide incredible protection against infection. This may have been logical three months ago, when breakthrough cases among the vaccinated were minute, but now that the Delta variant has been proven to spread just as easily by inoculated individuals, according to the CDC, this science is alarmingly outdated (CDC.gov). Rather than making exceptions for vaccinated individuals, the district and schools should take extra caution when anybody is infected with the virus.

   Taking all of this into account, it is still important to remember that UC High is doing the best it can given the circumstances. It is easy to look at all of these glaring problems and immediately place blame on the school. While there could definitely be improvement on the school’s end, many of these precautions could be better enforced by San Diego Unified. Principal Michael Paredes said, “It’s important to live life and embrace this opportunity to be back in school, but to also make sure that we are not being ‘lax’ or negligent about what we know is safe practice.” Paredes added that he feels the precautions given by the district at UC High are sufficient, but that the most important goal should be consistency.

   What are common trends among the district’s COVID policies? Lack of specificity and lack of accountability. When words like “recommend” are used in reference to distancing and testing, it implies that we are all safe without these precautions. It enforces the idea that if a teacher or a student tests positive, their peers need not have valid concern for their own safety. They do not have to get tested. They do not have to quarantine. And that is irresponsible.