COVID-19 continues at Kapaun Mt. Carmel

Beatriz Moscoso, news editor

Teacher, nurse, administration share thoughts about future amid pandemic

With Christmas break just around the corner, there is a buzz of excitement around the school. At the same time, many people can not help but remember what happened last time there was a big break like this, Spring break back in March. KMC shut down and school went completely online. Many students are wondering whether that will have to happen again, and what can be done to stop it from happening, as the hybrid model seems to be preferred. In a survey of teachers and staff in the Wichita area provided by Janet Eaton, Superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, 706 people cast their votes. Forty six point six percent of them voted that they were very comfortable with keeping school in-person, while 11 percent were not comfortable at all.
       Principal Chris Bloomer says that he is not sure whether school will move online. For KMC as of Dec. 2, four percent of students had tested positive for COVID-19, and 76 people were quarantined.
       “It’s really too hard to say at this time [whether we will go online],” Bloomer said. “The positivity rate is high and if there is any spread over the holidays it would greatly limit our ability to return to the current schedule. I hope not, but I cannot say with any certainty.  It really depends upon the spread of the virus and the positivity.”
       Many public schools seem to be going online. Bloomer is not sure if KMC will follow suit. As Eaton said in an email to school teachers and staff in the Wichita Metro area, each individual school will have to take different measures depending on the gravity of the situation there.
       “I can’t really say [if KMC will follow the lead of public schools],” Bloomer said. “There is an advisory team that meets on a weekly basis to discuss the health of the diocese and the community.  Their role is to make recommendations whether to stay in school or move to a remote schedule and setting.”
       There is good news, though. School nurse Jennifer Soebbing says that KMC is actually doing quite nicely keeping people safe with the current schedule in place.
        “I believe the school is handling COVID-19 well,” Soebbing said. “We have implemented many things in the building for the health and safety of our students and staff.  The most important things that have been implemented are wearing masks, social distancing six feet apart, and handwashing and sanitizing.  Our hybrid schedule has allowed us to maintain students being six feet apart in class and has allowed for less congestion during passing periods, at lunch and entering and exiting the building.  We have not had to quarantine students as close contact in our classrooms due to the ability to have the students maintain sitting six feet or more apart and wearing masks.”
       Religion teacher Landon Downing believes that the hybrid schedule is far better than the online one, but still has his qualms with it.
       “I prefer the hybrid model to online because I think our students need social interaction,” Downing said. “It seems like all of us feel isolated, so at least being in school helps us build some sort of community.”
       But in order to not go online, everyone has to maintain the rules from school in their everyday lives.
       “We need to do a better job of slowing the spread outside of our building,” Soebbing said. “Everyone should be wearing a mask and social distancing when they are not at home or around those outside their immediate family.  The three simple things of wearing a mask, social distancing six feet or more, and washing your hands and hand sanitizing multiple times a day will help decrease the cases in our school community and our Wichita community.  Also, quarantining after testing positive or if you are a close contact is essential in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
       This applies to Christmas as well; it might not be the best idea to go visit every family member like usual.
“The CDC, Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Sedgwick County Health Department are giving the same advice for Christmas as they did for Thanksgiving,” Soebbing said. “They have advised us to only gather with those family members who live in your home.  They are also advising not to travel as this increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 from one location to the other.”
       Soebbing has a final message for students.
       “Being in quarantine yourself, or having friends or family in quarantine can be discouraging,” Soebbing said. “Everyone needs to realize that each of us must do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and quarantining when positive or if exposed is one of the best ways to stop the spread to others.  Although quarantining is not fun, it is a small sacrifice we can make to ensure the health and safety of our family, our friends and those in our community and to help our hospitals as they are very overwhelmed at this point.  This virus attacks the young and the old and everyone in between.  It attacks those that are very healthy and those that have underlying health conditions.  Some have very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, while others get very sick; some end up in the hospital, and some never leave the hospital.  We cannot predict symptoms and we cannot predict who will become very ill and who will not.  Therefore, we should look at quarantine as a way to do our part and something that is necessary for the health and safety of everyone.”