The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


MSJ Policy Changes Amidst COVID-19 Omicron Outbreak

By Staff Writers Vedesh Kodnani, Julia Peng & Aaryan Suri

As the spread of COVID-19’s Omicron variant rapidly worsens, FUSD and MSJ have seen a shift in their safety protocols. The volatility of cases means preparation for both online and continued in-person learning.

Distance learning vs in-person learning:
Although discussions regarding school closure have begun as a precautionary measure, FUSD still plans for schools to remain in-person. There are only two circumstances in which instruction would transition online: either the Alameda County Public Health Department directs the district to shut down, or with the approval ​​of the Alameda County Office of Education and the State Superintendent, the district declares they are unable to staff their schools. Due to this lack of a set threshold for online learning, a shift would ultimately come down to the county’s assessment of the situation. “Each situation is unique. It’s certainly possible that a school in and of itself may need to close right for strict staffing issues and that closure would only be for as short term as required to move enough staff back in person,” Superintendent CJ Cammack said.

Safety measures: 
Since chances of MSJ returning to virtual learning are slim, both the school and district are taking measures to prevent large outbreaks of COVID-19. From weekly COVID-19 testing at C-120 to increasing the efficiency of contact tracing via broadcast emails regarding possible contact with COVID-19, the district continues to strive for decreasing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. 

Virtual learning: 
In the event of a school closure, virtual instruction would mirror last year’s distance learning and FUSD would supply Chromebooks or hotspots to students in need of them. Unlike last year, virtual instruction would likely be temporary and only last until cases decline.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Will FUSD go back online for the remainder of the second semester? Under what circumstances? As of now, no — currently, FUSD lacks a set threshold to transition to online learning. In the case of severe staffing shortages, the district will begin internal discussions and consult with the Alameda County Office of Education and the CA State Superintendent of Schools about potential closure.
  2. I tested positive. What now? In accordance with CDC guidelines, FUSD requires students to isolate for a minimum of five days after testing positive. If after this period you receive a negative test result, you may return to school. However, if you continue to test positive, you must remain in isolation for at least 10 days until all symptoms have resolved. Additionally, FUSD encourages any students that test positive to self-report to their respective school site COVID Liaison. 
  3. I was exposed to COVID-19. What now? If exposed to COVID-19, FUSD requests that students test themselves for COVID-19. If the test result is positive, students should stay home and follow the guidelines above. However, if students test negative, they are free to continue with their normal routine, while staying masked up.
  4. If I miss school due to COVID-19, how will I make up my work? If a student happens to miss school due to COVID-19, they will be able to make up their work once they return. All self-isolation is considered an excused absence by the district, so students have the same number of days as their absence to make up any work that they missed. 
  5. Where can I get tested? Students can get tested at the free on-site test centers that are available on campus on Wednesdays from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Additionally, the district office offers free COVID-19 testing from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. every weekday at the FUSD District Office at 4210 Technology Drive. Alternative test sites are located in most commercial pharmacies such as Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, and through community organizations like Bay Area Community Health.
  6. How should I better protect myself from the Omicron variant at MSJ?
    You can protect yourself by using better masks, such as N95s, KF94s, KN95s. High-quality cloth masks should have two layers of tightly woven cotton, one layer of nonwoven fabric, nose wire to prevent air from entering the mask, and straps that go around your head to reduce gaps surrounding your face. Additionally, students should be sure to continue properly sanitizing to reduce the spread of the virus and consider getting the COVID-19 booster shot to protect themselves from the Omicron variant. 
  7. Will the mask mandate ever be lifted for MSJ?
    As of now, masks are required for all indoor gatherings in CA, including school. If MSJ were to lift the mask mandate, it would be as a result of broader county and state guidelines. 
  8. What precautions has MSJ taken to ensure the school’s safety?
    MSJ has improved the classroom cleaning system, implementing at least two air filters per classroom, as well as deep cleaning classrooms on a monthly basis. The school also sends out emails to anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 on campus, and supplies masks and hand sanitizer for both students and staff. 

Cover image by Web Editor Tanisha Srivatsa

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