COVID-19 update for Nohum High School District

Ian Letts, News Editor

Dylan Berman, Feature Editor

11 January, 2022

A sparsely populated Arcata High classroom on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.

Seri Welsh/Pepperbox

In the four and a half months between the beginning of school and winter break, the Northern Humboldt Union High School District saw 56 students and staff members contract COVID-19. Since Monday, January 3, 70 new cases have been reported, representing the most dramatic increase in cases over the course of the pandemic in the district. 

“I feel like it’s a threat, I feel like it’s very serious, and I’m noticing a lot of people that are not at school because of it,” said Arcata High School freshman Cassidy Quinlan, who has had both friends and family directly affected by the virus.

“I’ve had a lot of absences…a lot of emails from students that are missing…I’ve covered a class for another teacher…it’s been pretty unprecedented,” AHS history teacher Jeff Mielke said, affirming the severity of the outbreak.

Both AHS principal, Jim Monge, and nurse, Johnny Kell, believe that the surge is due to the Omicron variant.

“I would encourage everyone to up their mask game,” Kell said. He explained this is due to research that cloth masks and surgical masks are not as effective as KN-95 masks against the new variant.  

With the rise of COVID cases on campus, some students feel that in-person school poses too much of a risk.  

“I feel like [the administration] should do more. I feel like they should shut down the school,” said senior Vaidehi Patel. Many other students agree that shutting down at least for a short period of time is the responsible option.  

“It would definitely be disappointing, but I feel like it would be for the best if it’s keeping everything safe,” said freshman Lillian Afridi.

Quinlan shared similar thoughts on going online. 

“My personal grades were suffering from distance learning, but worst comes to worst, it’s not the worst thing that could happen,” Quinlan said.

While many students feel this way, some see more risks than rewards in going online. 

“I don’t learn like that. For those two years, I basically wasn’t doing a single thing of school,” said sophomore Fiona Kingery. 

Mielke also shared concerns regarding online school. 

“The ultimate goal of a school is to teach…if that is your goal then I feel like there can’t be online school,” Mielke said, explaining that online school takes a lot away from the education of students.

He feels the administration is doing what they can to keep the school safe. 

“Could they do better? We could all do better. Are they doing the best that they can with the information they have? Absolutely,” he concluded. 

The sentiment of keeping the school open is echoed by AHS principal Jim Monge,

“The current way the school is set up, we’re only set up for in-person instruction or full time independent study…If there were an extreme event, an extreme event would be not enough teachers, we might have to consider closing,” he stated.

Additionally, he believes that the peak of COVID cases in this surge on campus has already passed. 

“We know what it’s like to close our school’s and hunker down for long periods of time, and we mostly agree that that doesn’t work,” Kell stated. 

“We are at such a different part of the pandemic than we’ve ever been as a school,” he said, referencing the increase in testing on campus, vaccine availability, and booster shots. 

These shifts, combined with the milder symptoms of the Omicron variant, are reasons to stay on campus, according to Kell. 

“I really think that we’re doing literally as much as we can,” Kell concluded.