Upper School Quarantining and Second Hand Exposure This Fall


On September 25, Parker parents opened their email to a notification from Nurse Anne Nelson explaining that a student in the Upper School has contracted COVID-19. The email said that parents would be discreetly notified if their child had come into contact with the coronavirus. This email is one of two that has been sent out regarding the Parker Upper School and one of three regarding any Parker students. It is similar to many sent out across schools in Chicago and all around the country in the early fall months as schools adjust to varied new realities.

Parker isn’t the only school seeing how quickly school can become affected through large friend groups, sports teams, and second hand exposure. The Latin School of Chicago started their back to school season with their fall sports teams quarantining. “At the start of the year, for preseason sports we had some pretty informal soccer practices happening,” Latin sophomore Cameron Woan said. “These had to be cancelled due to people on the cross country and golf teams testing positive for COVID-19. That basically shut down all preseason sports.” 

At Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, students are fully back to school in pods that do all of their classes together. If one person in the pod tests positive, all of the students in the group take precautions. 

“One girl in my class tested positive, but it was a false positive,” Bernard Zell eighth grader Benjamin Graines said. “As soon as we got the information, they took us out of school, and we waited in the parking lot to get picked up. We were supposed to be out for two weeks, and then the head of our school informed us it was a false positive.”

If it hadn’t been a false positive, everyone in the pod would have quarantined at home. “The plan was that the school was telling us we had to stay at home for two weeks,” Graines said. “But, it was a false positive, and everything was ok. I did have to stay at home for two days until they told me.”

A student in the Parker Upper School tested positive for the coronavirus this school year. “It didn’t affect how I learned this year,” the anonymous Upper School student said. “I didn’t have any symptoms. I just tested positive. I just had to stay inside, but it didn’t affect my work at all. I was able to do it just as I am right now.”

Sports were also thought of in the Parker student’s situation. “We had to inform the school because my sister was doing sports,” the anonymous student said. “Nothing really happened that was major because that didn’t impact very many people. We just had to inform the school because of the sports.”

Bernard Zell’s daily school life hasn’t been drastically affected. “Our schedule in pods is pretty similar to what it was last year before COVID-19,” Graines said. “The only difference is math because it’s levelled. It has to be online which would cause more exposure to each other. We also have two recesses, and the teachers come to our room, we don’t really leave the room.”

The anonymous student at Parker wasn’t involved in large groups and was mostly spending their time safely with family and small groups of friends. “This whole pandemic I’ve been really scared about not only getting COVID-19, but spreading it,” the anonymous student said. “Spreading it is the major fear factor for me.”

Latin has a similar protocol as Parker regarding emailing when students contract the coronavirus. “During the school year there’s definitely been more cases,” Woan said. “When there is a case, the school will email all of the parents and students and just basically says when you have been in contact with the person we will email you. They give instructions on your quarantine.”

Latin has had fewer cases in their Upper School than their Middle School, which is going half day in person classes. Their Lower School is fully in person. 

Upper Schoolers at Latin go into school, something that Parker does not, as they log in to Zoom on an eight day cycle in pods.

If Parker was partially remote and partially back, testing positive could have a large impact. “I think if I was with more people, or at school it definitely would have spread faster,” the anonymous student said. “We were lucky that it didn’t spread to anyone else besides our family, but there are so many what ifs. What if we were back to school or on a big sports team? Then this situation could have looked very different.”

Contracting the coronavirus did not change this student’s views on going back to real school. “I am definitely not for going back to in-person school,” the anonymous student said. “Not only because the spread of COVID-19 is scary, but because the learning will be so different, and it would be more focused on not touching or seeing anyone.”

There are people at Latin who work to contact trace and privately email those who have been exposed. “I don’t know anybody well who has been in contact,” Woan said. “I know they sent you an email telling you they have traced the exposure to you. I’m pretty sure they have you go take tests and then go into your quarantine.” 

Parker was not involved in the contact tracing for the student with the coronavirus, as their Upper School is entirely remote. “Parker didn’t help at all, not one single bit,” the anonymous student said. “Since we’re not in school and my family hadn’t been involved in anything at school, I don’t think it really mattered to them, in a sense. We’re home anyways. It’s not going to be helped through Parker because we haven’t been at Parker.”