Omicron and How FCPS is Working Through It

(Cr. (via Wikimedia Commons))

Ashley Park

When the county originally wrapped things up and let winter break commence, it was probably safe to say that very few anticipated another large COVID-19 outbreak. The world was hit with another COVID variant, Omicron, just as we were beginning to adapt to the new normalities in our daily life and trying to find the line between being cautious and still living. 

Omicron is said to have been first detected in South Africa during late November 2021. It is also known to be the fastest-spreading COVID variant yet.

The last day of school before winter break for Fairfax County was the 17th of December. As Omicron was just starting to surface in the area, many people were still filling their weeks with plans and outings. By Christmas, however, a big percentage of people began to take more caution in terms of meeting others. This was due to a large and steady rise in cases that seemed to be taking place everywhere. A majority of people questioned the reopening of their schools, as it had been a while since the pandemic had reached heights like this. However, Fairfax County Public Schools had long-since made the decision to push for in-person learning and stood strong in that choice. A good percentage of those who experienced online school in the past year could probably agree that it was not an ideal atmosphere for learning. Before the return to school, schools were making COVID testing available to all students, especially encouraging it to those who were experiencing symptoms or had traveled. 

As students began to refill the hallways of their schools, they were heavily encouraged to continue respecting their peers and others around them and wearing their masks during regular class hours. However, there were now more noticeable holes of absence scattered throughout different classes, as handfuls of students were required to stay home for at least several days–fluctuating depending on the situation. Reasons not coming to school are as follows: testing positive for COVID, experiencing and showing COVID-like symptoms, and being notified of close contact. FCPS Health and Safety Guidlines state that if a student tests positive, they will receive an FCPS Isolation Letter that includes an anticipated return to school date. Only until after the student submits the letter to the school, has no fever and major symptoms, and ten days have passed since the initial day of testing positive can they go back to school.

While it was originally a major concern for students, parents, and teachers alike, it seems that FCPS is determined and intends to keep schools open and remain in person. Many people theorized that the biggest concern for the county is the health of the teachers as substitute teacher numbers have also been impacted by this. Although many could see this as a setback to a full recovery, others can view it as yet another challenge this pandemic of almost two years has thrown at us.