LFA’s take on the recent Omicron variant


Max Ma  and Nghi Doan

    With the rapid spread of the most recent  COVID variant, Omicron, LFA faced a number of challenges upon returning to school in person in January. Well aware of what Omicron is capable of in terms of its transmissibility, the school decided to require a Covid test upon coming back after winter break, which allowed the school to identify the variant early on. The first and second week of school both shared a positivity rate around 8.5%. During the second week of class, the school decided to pause in-person classes for three days and instead, switch to e-learning. 

    According to Chris Tennyson, Associate Head of School, “The reason for the pause wasn’t because of the number of cases we had. We took the pause because the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Board of Education, decided to align themselves with the CDC guidelines, which said isolation doesn’t need to be ten days, but five days.” Although there are a number of schools that allow students to just return after five days, LFA decided that students need to take a rapid test after five days to make sure that they are not infectious. Tennyson further explained, “There were just so many moving parts surrounding the change in guidance with trying to get students isolated, and also welcoming people back. We wanted to make sure that when we came back, we could provide the best classroom experiences. So we took the pause, and it worked out great.” Taking advantage of the Mengel room and open bedrooms in the dorms to isolate students and transition students back, the school managed itself through the guidance by taking a pause. With the positivity rate being 8.5% for the first two weeks, following the winter break, LFA has taken some precautions in the dorms, to prevent further spreading of the Omicron.

    There will be a short term policy preventing students from visiting each other’s room, as according to Tennyson, “What we were seeing early on was that people were going to other rooms and unmasking and it was becoming a little bit concerning, so what we are trying to do is to limit that a little bit.”

    As Covid cases increased during the first two weeks, there were many questions surrounding whether LFA should have an all-school Covid test. When asked about these questions, Tennyson expressed that, “We don’t plan to do all school testing, and the reason for that is that the guidance says that if you are fully vaccinated, asymptomatic, and have not been identified as close contact, then you don’t have to test regularly.” With LFA policy including being fully masked, we are not required to do weekly testing, as in schools with a mask optional policy, they are more subjected to weekly testing. Regarding the future influence of this new Covid variant on the LFA community, Tennyson expressed an optimistic view, “We are excited, and confident that our positivity rate is going to continue to come down. Just last night, the state of Illinois indicated that we are on the other side of the peak now. These are good indicators for us, certainly a gleam of hope.” Ideally, looking ahead into May and April, as the surge reaches its peak and subsides, the school has a high degree of confidence that it will return to a relative normalcy with more opportunities and great activities.