COVID-19 Omicron variant surges through Jesuit’s campus

On any given day at Jesuit High School Sacramento, about 20 to 40 students are absent. But due to the sudden resurgence of COVID-19 through the Omicron strain of the virus, over 100 students were absent each day from Jan. 3-7.

Jesuit is following Sacramento County health and safety guidelines for students that have symptoms, exposure, or have tested positive for COVID-19. These students are required to stay home from school until they have a negative test result. Due to the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant, many students fall under these categories and have to stay home. According to Assistant to the Dean of Students Mrs. Mary Harrison, this has added stress to faculty and staff, and to the Dean’s Office.

“It’s taking more people working together to get through that same process to make sure that we are monitoring everybody and trying to make sure everybody is safe,” Mrs. Harrison said. “We are also having to work with the nurse’s office to navigate what the state guidelines tell us about who is supposed to be absent and for how long.”

The Dean’s Office is in charge of keeping track of attendance and absences every day which includes communicating with students and parents. Dean of Students La Roddric Theodule highlights how communication between the school and families has become more difficult with this new surge.

“It’s added a tremendous challenge in being able to communicate effectively with all of our students and parents in ways that we maybe have in the past,” Dean Theodule said. “Every day is different so things are changing at a very rapid pace and we’re working frenetically to try to get it right and keep everybody safe and [Omicron] has just made that difficult. It has taken a lot of time and energy to try and get right.”

With the spread of the Omicron variant, Jesuit has made some changes to stop the spread. According to an email sent out by the Jesuit Administration on Jan. 5, indoor athletic event crowds are limited to four family members per athlete, the Junior/Senior Open Dance has been delayed, and the Mass for Peace and Justice has also been delayed. 

According to Principal Dr. Michael Wood ‘99, these changes will not be permanent, but are required to reduce the risk of spreading the Omicron variant.

“I don’t know how temporary,” Dr. Wood said. “We have been advised that this particular surge may be quicker than previous surges. So it is our hope that the changes we made to reduce higher risk for larger activities can return in a month or so, but it all depends on what the virus actually does. We don’t know that at this time.”

With the abnormal absences in classrooms, some students may worry that they will fall behind in their classes. Dr. Wood attests to the fact that teachers are adjusting their learning programs so that this does not happen.

“Our teachers aren’t moving through the curriculum too fast, and leaving students behind,” Dr. Wood said. “They don’t want the students to fail or get behind, so they’re taking time in office hours, making sure Google Classroom is up to date. So if you are home, for whatever reason, you can stay up to date in your classes and come back with a soft landing.”

Even in these hard times, students are taking advantage of their available resources when infected with COVID-19 or are showing any similar symptoms. According to Dean Theodule, students at Jesuit are doing a great job at mitigating the virus to the best of their abilities. 

“I think an overwhelming majority of the student body is doing a great job at caring for each other and staying home when symptoms are present,” Dean Theodule said. “We are continuing to hammer home the message that we are going to continue to do the best that we can to keep everybody safe and to keep school open. We will continue to share that message.”

With the flexibility of staying home, students are able to keep others safe while simultaneously doing their work through virtual processes. Dr. Wood assures students and parents that Jesuit is adaptable to changes in the COVID-19 situation.

“We are open and flexible, meaning, if we do need to make changes, we are willing and able and prepared to do so,” Dr. Wood said.

The Omicron variant might have changed things around campus, but faculty, staff, and administrators are doing all they can to ensure that students will be able to stay caught up in class. Recent history has made Jesuit experienced in responding to the virus, and the school is committed to doing so safely and for however long it is necessary.