Second confirmed student case of COVID-19 affects Whitney High School


Students returned to campus Sep.21 for a hybrid model based on A/B groups and social distancing procedures with masks enforced for all students and staff on campus. Photo by Karina Zhyrun.

A second student at WHS has tested positive for COVID-19. Students were notified by School Messenger Sept. 28 at 9:52 a.m.

The first student was confirmed positive for COVID-19 Sept. 24 after mere days in the new hybrid model. The infected student was isolated, along with other students who were in close contact, until Oct. 6. Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, Whitney High Student Media has chosen not to disclose the names of infected students.

I kind of didn’t believe it at first. I just never expected to get COVID-19 [and] I don’t really think anybody [would] have expected to get it. I was honestly kind of shocked, surprised,  and then upset because I was more [scared] than anything that I had given it to my family members, friends, or [someone] else,” she said, after learning she was the first student to test positive during the hybrid reopening. “Personally, symptoms for me were not bad, but the thing is, I don’t know how the virus would affect somebody else, or if they have other health conditions.” 

After hearing the news, Vince Porras expressed his concerns. 

“I heard someone was tested positive for COVID-19, which makes me scared because my grandparents are visiting from the Philippines and I don’t want to get it at school and bring it home to them. I would be happy if the school goes back to all online because I really enjoyed staying home, and then I wouldn’t have to wear a mask all day and worry about my family when I get home,” Porras said.

To maintain the students’ safety on campus, guidelines have been enforced during hybrid, including separating desks to be six feet apart, mandating the use of masks unless eating or drinking, forming two separate lunch groups to minimize crowding, and sanitizing class workspaces at the end of each period with disinfectants. But even with these precautions, Tristan Alder still feels that the spread of the virus is inevitable as students continue to remain on campus. 

“I am not a fan of the hybrid schedule so far. Whitney should have done online school for a little while longer instead of switching us back and forth like a ping pong ball. This hybrid schedule isn’t working out in the least to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Alder said.

Especially with the confirmation of a student testing positive for COVID-19, Ryan Long thinks that the safety of students is being put at risk with the current hybrid schedule.

“I do not feel very safe after hearing about the positive COVID-19 case. People aren’t properly socially distancing themselves, either, so it makes me worried for the safety of myself and other students at Whitney,” Long said. 

While some students believe Rocklin Unified School District should return to online distance-learning, Audrey Scott thinks students should have a choice. 

“Honestly, I feel like we should just come back to school, and if some students don’t want to come back to school, then their parents can take them out. I think the people that want to be in school should be allowed to be in school,” Scott said. 

According to the Rocklin Unified School District School Reopening Guidance Document, “Individual school closures may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least 5 percent of the total number of students & staff are infected or potentially infected in a 14 day time period.”

Furthermore, if 25% or more of the Rocklin Unified campuses close within 14 days due to the coronavirus, then the entire Rocklin Unified School District will shut down and a return will be made to distance learning.

Comments from the Good Neighbors of Rocklin group on Facebook and various parents and community members on the Next Door app has added to the controversy, with some fearful of their students’ safety or possible exposure and some unhappy with what they hear about policies. Administrators have been sending daily updates to teachers about the status and possible contacts or exposures as a way to keep everyone informed.

To discuss the district’s next steps for the second quarter, a special RUSD Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m is being held to address parent, student and RTPA (Rocklin Teachers Professional Association) opinions and concerns. By the end of the meeting, the Board will vote on how the school will operate for the second quarter. 

“I will attend the board meeting in-person. I would prefer that any decision to reopen was based on more than one week of feedback and information from the reopening in-person process. I would also hope the board would seek the perspective of all stakeholders in order to better gauge the reaction and desired direction of the community.  In addition, the amount of stress many on campus have felt as we return to in-person instruction has risen,” language arts teacher Mr. Patrick Gale said. 

The first student who tested positive received various messages from people about her situation — mostly heartfelt, but others hateful.

“It’s either people are super sweet about it and they tell me to get better, to get through it. Some people have brought stuff to my house which is really sweet, like little gifts and stuff. So that’s really nice. But then there are also other people who haven’t been so nice about it. [Someone] said some pretty hurtful things over Instagram DM’s, and then just to hear that people are saying things behind my back like I’m going to start an outbreak at the school,” she said.

“It’s not okay to go online and harass [someone] about things that they can’t control and that they didn’t know were there. Obviously, I would not have come to school if I knew that I had the coronavirus, so the fact that also people are point fingers and blaming other people for something that’s a global pandemic [doesn’t make sense],” the infected student said. 

Principal Mr. Justin Cutts said he and the other administrators are busier than ever in addressing the issue and following new policies and protocols.

“We have answered each email the best that we can. It’s a difficult situation since we have parents and students who feel very passionate on both sides of this issue. For each email that we get wanting us to go back to distance learning there is another wanting us to go back five days a week without masks on,” Cutts said. 

He confirmed that the P.E. classroom is being used as a larger health office so that students with symptoms can be socially distanced while waiting to go home.

Cutts said, “[To keep everyone safe and informed] we contact our district nursing staff who has a protocol they follow. They work with us to do contact tracing of students and staff who have been in close contact with whoever has a confirmed case.”