School outlines COVID-19 protocols and expectations

September 5, 2021 — by Lynn Dai and Shaan Sridhar
Photo by Selina Chen
Students and staff walk by the student center during Phase 3A in March. 

When students returned to in-person instruction on Aug. 12, over 60 percent of them had not been on campus in the past year — or ever. Many were unfamiliar with the protocols put in place during the phased reopening at the end of last semester, only some of which still remain.

Now, in response to the rampant surge in COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the Delta variant, the district has developed a comprehensive set of protocols and guidelines to be enforced immediately in the event of an active case on campus.

Like last year, students must fill out the Screener-19 health questionnaire before periods 1, 2 and tutorial. If students receive a red check mark, either from reporting COVID-19 symptoms, testing positive for COVID-19 or quarantining with COVID-19 patients, they must report to the health office. 

Recently retired assistant principal Kerry Mohnike said that Screener-19’s “digital record-keeping can also help [school administrators] better monitor the campus.” 

The school is also using E-Hall Pass, which was implemented in the spring to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by replacing paper passes. Mohnike said the system is being used primarily as a means to streamline the hall pass system.

“Once users get past the learning curve of using the system, [E-Hall Pass] provides convenience for things like restroom passes or text reminders for off-campus appointments and other uses,” she said.

The school is still enforcing an indoor mask mandate for all students — in adherence with a county-wide policy issued Aug. 2 — but the outdoor mask mandate and social distancing measures  are no longer in effect, said assistant principal Brian Thompson. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) removed these requirements because of the high number of vaccinated people in Santa Clara County.

In addition to classes, the indoor mask mandate applies to club meetings and indoor sports, excluding athletes who are actively participating during practice and games, Thompson said.

He added that the CDPH and SCCOE guidelines were designed to “provide safety for all variants of COVID-19.”

Although there were some cases of student infections during hybrid learning last spring, there have been no outbreaks as of early September. Brian Safine, the director of human resources for the district, said approximately 96 percent of school staff are vaccinated for COVID-19 and all unvaccinated staff are being tested weekly starting Aug. 30, under an executive order signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was recently fully approved by the FDA, there is also a possibility that the state will eventually mandate student vaccinations, Thompson said. 

In the case of any positive or close-contact COVID-19 cases, the school is following the response protocol outlined by Santa Clara County Department of Public Health (SCCDPH). The plan requires symptomatic students and staff to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status. 

Students who are in quarantine will communicate with their teachers and complete assignments through Canvas, while teachers in quarantine will have substitutes in class until they can return to campus.

If the school site has COVID-19 outbreaks, that data will be shared with the CDPH and SCCOE, which make decisions about school closure based on COVID-19 data within the county. If the school has a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, a short closure and return to remote learning is possible, Thompson said.

In light of the rise of the Delta variant, Thompson urged students and staff to continue taking safety protocols seriously and assume everyone is not vaccinated.

“Our community has been great with following COVID-19 protocols,” he said. “Our school admin is thankful to our students, staff and parents for following the COVID-19 protocols designed to keep our community safe.”