Seven students test positive for COVID-19

A student tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 10. Within four weeks, six more UPA students, half of whom were vaccinated, tested positive outside of campus in mostly isolated incidents. As per Santa Clara County guidelines, the students returned to school after a ten-day quarantine without proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

The UPA administration began contact tracing to determine close contacts on Aug. 12. The process included talking with the infected student, inspecting seating charts in all the student’s six to seven classes and asking teachers if they were within a six-foot radius of the student. Siblings of the infected students were also quarantined for ten days. All students in the infected student’s classes were sent emails the evening of Aug. 12, informing them whether they were a close contact.

Juniors Alisa Byrd and Symphony Malone check in with assistant coach Dawnis Guevara prior to varsity volleyball tryouts on Aug. 10. A COVID-19 prescreening for each athlete was required to play. (Photo by Tyler Yuen.)

All students were offered an in-campus COVID test, which was administered on Aug. 13. Approximately ten students were tested, all of whom tested negative. No teachers officially opted in for the Aug. 13 test, however, five teachers were tested via walk-in throughout the day, all of whom tested negative.

Director of Student Services Andrew Yau and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Matthew Daugherty administered the school’s COVID-19 tests on Aug. 13. Since then, campus supervisors and other staff have been administering COVID-tests. The administration is looking for a full-time school nurse to take over those duties and tend to any injuries on campus. 

Executive Director David Porter expressed frustration with the county’s current opt-in COVID testing guidelines. 

“Opt-in is really challenging because it gives more work for our UPA families to kind of shoulder the burden of having to sign up,” Porter said. “I know families are already worried about a ton of processes about where do you pick your student up, how do you get your books. I prefer opt-out.”

School hygiene protocol, too, cannot be enforced. As Porter explains, students can choose not to wipe down their desks at the end of a class, with the maximum disciplinary action being “insubordination” and a subsequent referral. However, disciplinary action varies by teacher.

“We have pages and pages of guidelines for violence, plagiarism, alcohol and drugs,” he said. “But there is no guideline for cleanliness. In fact, state guidelines require masks but they do not put any teeth into the legislature about how we’re supposed to hold students accountable.”

If a student refused to wear a mask, they would be isolated in a classroom, away from other students, with other staff members providing a safe environment to complete alternative work.

Porter believes that over the course of the school year, more isolated cases of COVID-19 will continue to occur but hopes that safety measures will stave off an outbreak. If a surge in cases does occur, 10% of students (73 students) would need to test positive for the school to go into a two-week quarantine, during which school would be held virtually on Zoom.

“One thing I can say for sure,” Porter said of the students’ positive tests, “is I think we’re all physically reminded: This [pandemic] is not over.”