How are NYC High Schools Faring With the Omicron Variant?

Students outside of Stuyvesant weigh in on how Omicron is being handled in their schools.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As Stuyvesant grapples with and adjusts its response to the Omicron variant, circumstances may vary across other New York City public schools. The Spectator gathered the perspectives of students outside of Stuyvesant on how their schools have dealt with the variant.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

“The school hasn’t handled Omicron very well. While they have been good about certain things such as distributing COVID tests, they lack in other aspects such as general communication. Not many of my teachers have been absent, but some of my classes had close to half the students missing. I believe that schools should be shut down for a short amount of time, maybe two weeks or a month, in order to contain and recover from Omicron.” —Max Bieber, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, junior

“One of the main issues in the school the first and second week back was that a lot of students were absent, and a lot of teachers were absent too. Usually, when a teacher’s absent, they send the kids to the auditorium for study hall, and the auditorium was always full and it definitely wasn’t safe in terms of COVID safety measures. A student wrote a Reddit post that gained a lot of attention online about the conditions, and the school actually did change its policies after that. There are a lot more substitutes. A lot of students just want a better option for remote learning in case they do have to be absent due to COVID since right now there isn’t really instruction well-tailored to students staying home, so a lot of the time, they just have to look at powerpoints or ask other students in the class. Starting last week, teachers started offering to have zoom meetings with students once or twice a week where students can ask questions, but that’s still quite different from asking questions in class or asking questions in the moment. ” —Giulia Cartegni, The Bronx High School of Science, junior

“The overall situation at Nest is getting better, but slowly. A lot of kids aren’t coming to school because they either have COVID or are scared they’re going to get it. Since the beginning of December, I’ve had at least one substitute teacher a week. A lot of students have been absent. Before break, I think attendance was about 30 percent. It sucks because a lot of the education and curriculum is being put on hold. In the future, if there’s a huge spike in cases again, I think a shut down should be considered, as horrible as virtual learning was.” —Ruby Kiesewalter, New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math, junior

“When we got back from break, about 20 to 30 percent of people were out, not as much nowadays, but some favored teachers have left permanently due to COVID. Ideally, I would not like schools to close. I’m a social person, so school for me is about the people as much as it is grades.” —Riley Hill, The Beacon School, junior

“While I feel like the situation at my school is the best it could be under these circumstances, many students including myself don’t feel safe. We average about five new confirmed cases every day despite the fact that most students wear their masks and there are protocols put in place. I believe that my school is doing a good job in that they provide students with free tests and are very adamant about social distancing and staying home if symptoms are present. On the other hand, many students are not taking the pandemic as seriously as they should be, in terms of inadequate social distancing. My school’s student attendance rate has gotten as low as 35 percent.” —Henry McQuillan, The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, junior

“For my school, they have been slowly managing Omicron. After winter break, our school ran out of tests immediately and no one was able to get tested after being in an exposed classroom for almost an entire week. Now they have decided to give only two tests per student every week regardless of the number of times you have been in an exposed classroom. Rules with masking and open windows for ventilation have also been stricter now. Coming back from winter break I would have six to seven students in my classes. Makeup tests after school or during the school day have also increased due to the number of students absent. Our classes have also increased the number of ARROW days (days where we just catch up on any work/free period) and pushed back dates for tests and quizzes. Some COVID protocols my school has implemented are allowing students to go out for lunch, opening all windows, and not using lockers.” —Anonymous, The Brooklyn Latin School, senior

“The first week was a complete frenzy, with students administering their rapid tests in the hallways, in the auditorium, in the lunchroom, and the bathroom. With packed hallways and many students not even wearing face masks, my school has become a supercenter of spreading COVID. There have been so many teachers absent that there aren’t even enough teachers to cover, so classes are to report to the auditorium or cafeteria. For one school day, I had spent more time in the auditorium than I had spent in a classroom due to my teachers being absent, all for COVID-related reasons (either tested positive or a family member tested positive). The current learning situation is unproductive for everyone: if teachers are out, a Google Classroom assignment is not enough to make up for live instruction; if students are out, even for a day, they immediately get behind from the class.” —Lauren Fan, Brooklyn Technical High School, junior