COVID surges increase plans and protocols


Ann Pomeroy, Newtonian Editor-in-Chief

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is currently in a Omicron COVID variant surge. With the first confirmed Omicron case occurring a little over two months ago, on Dec. 1, the grasp of the variant has had little leeway. In response to the surge, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), along with the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), supported Kansas schools implementing a 30-day temporary suspension of all contact tracing. 

USD 373 decided to immediately enact the changes to contact tracing, and stated as of Jan. 18 the district would no longer notify families whose child may have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, through classroom or extracurricular settings. With these changes of policy, and additional cases rising within the walls of NHS, many questioned whether a school closure was imminent.

“[A possible closure] would be a question for Mr. Van Ranken but my understanding is we are still waiting on guidance from the Harvey County Health Department,” principal Caleb Smith said. “I don’t know of any plans to close. I believe we have to have too many staff out for that to happen.”

While no specific plans of closure are planned, many staff have begun to prepare students for the possibility. Nicknamed ‘Snow-vid days’ students are warned that in reaction to a surge in cases in the high school specifically, students would have 1-2 days without schoolwork, similarly to a snow day, in order for teachers to prepare virtual lessons if needed. This could follow with days of online or hybrid learning. Generally, plans and protocol are still evolving as the situation continues, but many sources such as The Philadelphia Inquirer state that the Omicron surge is on its decline, as new cases are plummeting similarly to how fast they climbed.

“Thank you for your continued support as we navigate this challenging time for our schools and communities. We will continue to keep you informed as guidance changes are announced,” superintendent Fred Van Ranken said in a letter to USD 373 parents and guardians.