Newport-Mesa Unified School District Education Center. Photo courtesy: Tara Afshar

Mid-January is upon us and with that comes the realization that while schools in the Newport Mesa Unified School District have completed their first 2 weeks of the spring semester in person, many college students are just now stepping foot onto their campuses. Many chancellors of the U.S.’s most prestigious schools and high-ranking universities had decided to delay the start of the term or hold the first and or second weeks online to ensure their student’s safety upon returning to campus. December and January held rapidly increasing case counts due to an escalade in traveling and congregation with family members and friends over the holidays.

Before students in Orange Country completed the fall semester in mid-December, the seven-day average case count for COVID-19 was 2,738 from December 11 to December 17 and upon return to the classrooms on January 3, the 7-day average case count from the 3rd to the 9th was 3,603 and from the 10th to the 16th that 7-day average would be 3,644. In fear of spreading the virus amongst their students, The Washington Post reported Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, and several UC schools rescheduled students’ return and set several new protocols for testing and vaccination prior to the start of classes. The University of California Irvine, located just 5 minutes away from CdM’s campus in Orange County, decided to hold the first two weeks of the spring semester online. According to the East Bay Times, UCI’s Chancellor Howard Gillmen announced that classes scheduled from January 3rd to January 14th would be held online, saying that the “spread of the Omicron variant ‘is predicted to be especially intense toward the end of December and early January.’”

The first week back, teachers and students at CdM noticed a few empty seats in their classrooms. Whether this was the cause of students testing positive for COVID-19, having to quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus, or simply a regular absence is unclear. Despite this, any student attending school in person can be exposed to the risk of being infected by COVID-19, although there are still countless efforts to maintain social distancing and proper mask usage indoors on campus, this leads us to wonder whether public schools in Orange County should have followed many universities lead and delayed student’s return to campus.


On a more local level school districts are in mitigating the recent surge of omicron in different manners. The Los Angeles unified school district has taken a lot of preventive measures with the latest COVID-19 surge, “providing COVID-19 testing for all students and staff“. The LAUSD website also provided an updated map showing every stationary testing site in the area. In addition, the LAUSD district also requires students “to have proof of a negative COVID-19 baseline test in order to come onto campus.” Similar actions have also been taken by the Irvine Unified School District, as they have been providing free at-home antigen test kits given by the state, as well as test kits for students. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Well, many colleges in school districts around the country took drastic precautionary measures, anticipating a winter surge in Covid cases, the NMUSD district has done virtually nothing other than requiring masks for all individuals in indoor public settings. Many students like CdM senior Aaron Shah express their concerns saying “I have not heard of a single person when looking back to last year, that didn’t find quarantine difficult both inside and outside the classroom. That’s why I think that we as a school and student body should work toward preventing the revival of that mentally and physically draining time by encouraging the usage of masks and just being more cautious of the spread of the virus.” NMUSD Has made no change in mandates from the beginning of the school year, despite the recent spike in COVID cases over the course of winter break. Additionally, the only action NMUSD has taken (the indoor mask mandate) is often blatantly disregarded at Corona del Mar High School. Senior Eric Lee says “People are not taking it seriously. No amount of school policy works when certain students and teachers are not willing to enforce them.” Hopefully NMUSD students will weather this new surge without having to suffer any disruptions, due to the lack of support from the district for students that are out sick.