DVHS clarifies COVID case-counting protocol amidst concerns


Carina Liu

Parent concerns of how cases are being counted at DVHS contrast the transparency of the administrators.

As the Omicron COVID-19 variant continues to spread, Dougherty Valley High School administrators have been working to accurately count the cases and reach out to parents about it. However, despite the rapid spread, DVHS has seen a shockingly low number of cases since the initial surge in Jan., causing the parents to be skeptical about how the numbers are counted, and whether or not it truly reflects the number of actual cases. 

As per SRVUSD’s COVID-19 case dashboard, which reflects coronavirus cases per school, Dougherty Valley has recorded only 25 cases in the last 14 days out of a total population of 3,600 students (as of Feb. 10, 2022).

“Everyone was affected by that big surge in January, which we knew was going to happen. And we had that one day [with] over 40 on the case report, including the weekend,” said DVHS Principal Evan Powell. “But I would say overall, we’re averaging three to five a day, which is really low compared to some of our [local] schools.” 

The SRVUSD website mentions that all positive cases are reported per county guidelines. However, the site’s dashboard only reflects verified cases. The low percentage of COVID cases at DVHS has led many students and parents to wonder how cases are verified and counted — and whether they’re actually being counted at all. 

“I feel like they don’t make us aware. Most people don’t know how they’re tracking the cases, or how many cases we have here,” DVHS junior Hannah Rosenberg said. 

Students were also concerned about their safety at the risk of the people around them after returning from winter break. 

“I expected everyone to give a test to the school and confirm that they’ve tested negative before they come back, but [the school] didn’t really ask for such measures to be taken,” DVHS sophomore Nivretri Ganesh said.

Despite student concerns, DVHS administration appears to be transparent about their system of recording COVID cases. The process starts with the student’s parent or guardian calling the attendance office and letting the school know that the student is sick.  

“If a student or family says they are just ‘sick,’ we have to inquire [about] symptoms,” Powell mentioned. “And if it’s any of the COVID related symptoms, we do require a negative COVID test to return to school,” Powell explained

Dave Kravitz, director of Student Services at DVHS, also elaborated on how and when a student’s COVID case was considered “verified.”

“When a positive case is reported to school officials and it is determined that the person was on campus or participated in an off-campus school-sponsored event within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms or a positive test result, then it is counted,” Kravitz said.

If the student ends up being positive for COVID, they are required to quarantine at home for five days. After those five days are up, the student must test for COVID again. If they test negative, they’re free to come back to school. If not, they must quarantine until they are able to send in a negative test. 

Rosenberg was one of the students that tested positive for COVID, and she described what the process of reporting her positive case to the school was like.

“After I found out I tested positive, [my mom and I] told the school and we got an email saying that I ‘can’t come back for five days. Let us know of any symptoms.’ I had to submit proof [of testing negative] before I came back, and I just quarantined in my room until then,” Rosenberg explained.

The most important part of controlling the spread of COVID at Dougherty Valley is the protocol of checking in every day with infected students. “We have a running tracker with our attendance office, [recording] student notifications to us,” Powell said. “They put the name there, and then admin follows up with the family.”

Because many parents have been expressing their concern about how COVID-19 can spread within the school and how accurate the number of cases daily is, Powell elaborates on this, emphasizing the effort and care that goes into providing a safe environment for students.

 “Dougherty Valley implemented a system with the attendance office and admin to ensure that every student who calls in sick, [or] anything related to COVID, we’re following and checking up daily,” Powell assured. “And what it means is that we’ve shifted our daily work to prioritize COVID checking.”

Along with this, DVHS used a system of contact tracing last semester to inform students who may have been exposed to COVID. Teachers have seating charts in place to keep track of which students sit near each other. When one student was out with COVID, the students who were exposed were sent an email letting them know to get tested upon experiencing symptoms.

“We’re following the state guidelines on group contact tracing. [W]e’re collecting the classes … and if you’re on campus on the days that a student would have been infected, then we inform families,” Powell said. “And what we’ve seen since we transitioned to this a couple of weeks ago is that our numbers continue to keep going down.” 

While counting the cases is extremely important, with the lift of the mask mandate as of Feb. 16, 2022, it is much easier for the virus to spread. Students who quarantine struggle to catch up on schoolwork, due to missing classes and lessons that may be essential for their assignments. In order to address this, an independent study program has been implemented to help students with classwork and homework.

The state of California has passed a law requiring schools to implement an Independent Study Contract (ISC) for students who miss 3-14 days of school due to COVID related absences. While this makes catching up with schoolwork easier, some students tend to struggle with understanding the content upon return. 

“It was so bad, in some of my classes I had no idea what we’re doing,” Ganesh said. “But in some of my classes, my teachers kept me on top of things while I was out so I completely caught up with everything and I could just resume back from where I was like I never left class.”

Rosenberg also shared the same sentiment, expressing the difficulties of catching up with schoolwork. “It was hard to catch up when I got back, I had so many assignments. I feel like there should be something set up with our assignments, I missed the first week of school and got really behind. It was hard coming back after I was sick.”

While returning from quarantine proved difficult for some students, the DVHS community still works hard to maintain a safe environment for students and staff. 

“Although our numbers are low, it also speaks volumes to how many students and staff are vaccinated, and also not just vaccinated but just keeping distance and doing the right hygiene, right to make sure that we stay safe,” Powell said.