Campus Pandemic Procedures

What does school during a pandemic look like?


Ava Paulsen and Mia Souther

Resuming in-person school during the national COVID-19 pandemic is difficult. Two months after in-person school resumed for the first time in over a year, there have already been unconfirmed outbreaks on cheer, baseball, and football teams. Students should be aware of the policies and protocols in order to feel safe, make educated decisions, and ensure that both they and their peers are following these guidelines. 

These pandemic procedures are hard to keep track of, especially since they are regularly changing. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) is responsible for modifying the policies and procedures surrounding COVID-19 for LA County which includes Santa Clarita and the William S. Hart School District. These general COVID-19 policies for school campuses are outlined on the Hart District website, and the implementation of these precautions can be seen on campuses like Castaic High School.

At the start of the school year, unvaccinated students were required to quarantine for 10 days if exposed to COVID-19 regardless of if they were symptomatic. However, LADPH released a modification on Thursday, September 16th. Schools with low transmission rates are no longer required to quarantine asymptomatic unvaccinated students because COVID cases and transmission rates are decreasing. LACDHP reported that over the past three weeks there was a 40 percent decline in coronavirus cases among children. 

In order for a student on an outbreak-free campus to qualify for the modified quarantine protocol, the unvaccinated student must be asymptomatic and exposed at school by a masked close contact. During the modified quarantine, the student must be “tested twice a week” with their second test conducted on Day 5 or later according to the updated Exposure Management Plan released by LADHP. If the tests come back negative and the student remains asymptomatic they “may be released from quarantine after Day 7 from the date of last exposure.”

Castaic is still in an outbreak that hasn’t been closed by LACDPH yet,” says Mrs. Delawder, the Vice Principal of Castaic High School in an interview conducted last week. Due to the outbreak status, Castaic still has to abide by the mandatory 10-day quarantine for exposed unvaccinated individuals. Outbreak status is declared when a group on campus has identified a group of three or more students who have tested positive for COVID. Mrs. Delawder oversees safety on campus by identifying COVID-positive individuals and their close contacts, notifying families of quarantine status, and assists with the transition back onto campus. 

If you are unvaccinated and not an athlete that gets routinely tested or wondering if you have a COVID-19 and not just a cold, the Health Office at Castaic High School is open from 2:45 to 3:45 for free testing. “Any student and their families can come test [for free]” says Ms. Meottle, Castaic’s school nurse. They are also flexible about the hours. “If somebody can’t get here during that time [they can] come early at 7:30,” says Ms. Meottle who works with Mrs. Delawder on ensuring COVID safety around campus. 

“I send out the emails asking for the close contacts” says Ms. Meottle, who also enters these names “into the COVID track system that goes to our covid coordinator.” On the Hart District website close contact is described as “anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.” If a student were to test positive, their close contacts would be identified and contacted by the administration. 

“We ask the teachers of that student to submit to us any student or staff who they believe was within six feet for more than 15 minutes like desk partners,” says Mrs. Delawder, “Sometimes the teacher also self-identifies.” Any and all close contacts get notified via email and fill out a form providing more information that helps the administration determine whether they need to quarantine. However, if a student tests positive at home, contact tracing only goes back 48 hours. If they haven’t been on campus within a two-day period, then close contacts are not identified or contacted.  

If a student was exposed to an individual with a positive COVID-19 test they would receive an email with instructions for how to complete assignments from home. If their quarantine lasts 10 days, per board policy they would have 10 days upon returning back to school to turn in their assignments. This allows the students time to communicate with their teachers, seek extra support, and finish absent work. 

Thankfully, cases within the district have been decreasing as of recently. This is a result of the safety precautions in place. Taking the initiative to keep yourself and your peers safe is the only way for cases to remain at a minimum. Keep doing your part by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. For information about vaccines visit this link.