Omicron slams school


Photo By Sacramento County

The omicron variant has cause covid positivity rates to sky rocket in Sacrament County and across the country.

Ashley Lundberg and Jaiden Crabtree

Empty desks. Entire rows of students gone. District administrators filling in for teachers because there are not enough subs. Rumors of returning to distance learning swirling around campus.

As Covid-19 cases hit an all-time high in Sacramento County–with positivity rates topping 23% this week–San Juan schools have been slammed with absenteeism for both students and staff. Rio Americano alone had 183 active student cases and 15 staff positive tests as of Jan. 13, according to the district’s Covid dashboard.

“This is putting a huge strain on our schools with many teachers and other staff members out sick,” Superintendent Ken Kern said in a statement. 

Health officials point to the new omicron variant that is far more contagious but poses less health risk for the fully vaccinated.

“With the new variant, Omicron, the capacity in my classes has been very low,” said senior Michala Rapoza. “It seems as though at least one new person is missing a day.” 

The school reported 15 staff cases on Jan. 14.

“My classes are slower now because teachers say they don’t want people who aren’t here to fall behind,” said senior Luke O’Connell. “A couple of my friends have had (covid), but I am not worried because I’m vaccinated.”

With the dramatic rise in cases, some have thought about the possibility of going back to distance learning after six months of being back in person. 

Principal Cliff Kelly has said he is not aware of any current plans to move back online. However, district spokesperson Raj Rai mentioned that it could be a reality if county health officials deem it necessary. 

“As conditions change, classroom or school closures could be made when necessary and advised by county health officials,” said Rai.  

            Sacramento area colleges and universities, including American River College, Sacramento State and UC Davis, have announced that they will hold classes online at least through the end of January.

          “Some universities are moving online temporarily and I think it would be good to do the same,” said senior Catherine Kim. “Interacting with peers and teachers can be beneficial but I think that the constant spreading of Covid-19 outweighs those facts.”

           Despite this, most students interviewed for this article have the opposite view, supporting keeping schools open after an online learning experience last school year. 

          “I really, really, don’t want to return to online schooling,” said senior Jason Smith. “I despise online schooling and believe it isn’t beneficial in the slightest.”

To help keep Covid-19 at bay, the district released new guidelines regarding infections and exposures Jan. 11.

Students were given at-home test kits and rapid tests are available at the football field snack bar before and after school. All indoor athletes are required to test once a week. 

          The Omicron variant has also affected multiple extracurriculars on campus. With updated district protocols, only two family members are allowed to watch indoor events such as volleyball games or theatre performances. 

          On the new rules, Kelly said, This is in effect until covid rates decline and is similar to current practice in other districts in the region.”

           Player shortages have also plagued the Raiders. The girls’ varsity and Junior Varsity basketball games against El Camino on Jan. 12 were postponed due to a lack of available players. Other activities, on-campus and otherwise, have also been affected.

“A lot of players are bummed out because we do like having those big games with lots of fans,” said senior basketball player Sam Thompson. “Looking at it as someone who doesn’t want covid to spread, it’s a good thing. I just worry that they put these rules in place and if covid rates drop they won’t change the rules.” 

Students have also seen disruptions to out-of-school activities. 

          “My competitive dance team has had people who got covid and we had to change our whole set two days before a competition,” said Kailene Thernos

           With all of the postponements and cancellations, school is not yet on the growing list of closed places. For now, the desks remain available, but whether or not they will stay filled is another question.