COVID-19 case numbers triple at Geneva High School; many blame factors outside of the building 

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Maya Stevens, Guest Contributor

During the week of October 12, COVID-19 cases at Geneva High School were averaging three per week, three times that of the average weekly cases in September. At the beginning of the week of November 9, Geneva High School reported thirteen cases. Staff is citing activities outside of school as the cause of the recent surge.

In order to remain open for hybrid learning, Geneva High School is following a strict set of guidelines given by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Students are required to wear facemasks and remain six feet apart at all times, and staff is thoroughly cleaning and contact tracing any possible infections daily. With these protocols in place, the rate of transfer from student to student is nonexistent.

“Here at school, I think everyone is doing a fantastic job,” said Geneva High School Principal, Tom Rogers. “Everyone is adhering to the mask protocol. Everyone is cleaning their desks. I think what we’re doing here at school is working well.”

The real problem lies outside of school walls. It is no coincidence that cases follow a clear trend: infection rates peak after holiday weekends. The weeks following Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Halloween saw a spike in cases.

“Given the information we receive from the Kane County Health Department, the COVID that’s impacting us directly at school is coming from the outside community,” said Principal Rogers. “I think we can all do better. Once we leave school, we’re prone to doing what we normally do, like gathering in groups.”

“COVID positive cases are on the rise in general,” said Mike Kelly, Dean of Students at Geneva High School. “It’s natural that we would see an increase at our school. What would help in our efforts to keep positive numbers down is if students would make a conscious effort to maintain appropriate distance, wear masks, and frequently wash their hands on their off-site learning days and on weekends.”

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine and staff must contact trace individuals who have come into close contact with the initial case. COVID-19 related absences are forcing students to miss crucial class time.

“Extended absences could be up to two weeks,” said math teacher, Jennifer Schwartz. “When students come back, they’re sometimes behind.” More cases mean more two-week absences. More absences mean less precious classroom time, which could significantly affect many students’ ability to learn.

An increase in COVID cases at the end of the first-semester leaves students with one question: what happens next semester? Staff and administration are hopeful that hybrid learning can continue, despite the second county-wide closure of many nonessential businesses.

“Based on the great job that everyone is doing here at school, I am optimistic,” said Principal Rogers. “Obviously, nothing is definite, but my overwhelming hope is that we can continue.”

As of now, everything is still uncertain. The Geneva Board of Education plans to meet on November 16 to begin preparations for next semester. Recently, District 304 has also launched a COVID-19 Dashboard on its website to weekly update community members on case numbers within the schools.

Not much is known currently about how next semester will look, but as state-wide case numbers continue rising, the chances of continuing in-person learning exponentially decline.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to continue hybrid learning into next semester if we continue to follow safety protocols,” said Dean Kelly. “However, if things continue to trend in the wrong direction, GHS, as well as other schools that are currently engaged in hybrid learning, could find themselves having to shift to full remote learning for a period of time.”