Students share thoughts on current Omicron situation


Eirini Schoinas

Students in the hallway sit close together during lunch, causing concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.

Please note that this article was written in mid-January, when Omicron cases were just reaching their peak.

With COVID-19 Omicron variant cases still relatively high in Oregon, balancing safety and life at school is a major concern that many Lincoln students share. 

“It’s currently a super high stress environment for myself and a lot of people I know,” junior Nora Wu said. “For example, I live with my 85-year-old grandmother. It would be really bad for my family if I contracted COVID, but I also can’t stay at home as a precaution because many of my classes are learning and practicing important material in preparation for tests.”

While students acknowledge the efforts of PPS and the school administration to limit the spread of COVID, they are aware of the increased risks. 

“I think [the administration is] doing everything they can to keep school as safe as possible, such as constant mask wearing and having big air filters in every classroom,” junior Jonah Byars said.  “However, with around 1600 students in a small building, there is bound to be COVID transmission, no matter the precautions taken.”

Indoor lunch has some students particularly worried. 

“There’s not much room in the building for social distancing, especially during lunch,” sophomore Tanush Sistla said. “During lunch, the hallways are filled with students crammed together. We just don’t have the space to stay safe.”

Wu agreed.

“There’s really no way to have COVID-safe indoor lunch, and most days the only other option is to eat in the pouring rain,” she said.

Attendance is another concern. According to an email from Principal Peyton Chapman sent Jan. 13, the highest recorded absence percentage in 2022 was 22 percent. Absences have been decreasing and were at 7 percent the week of Jan. 24, according to an email sent by Principal Chapman on Jan. 27. Even if students haven’t yet missed school, the possibility of getting sick worries them.

“I have yet to miss school because of COVID this year, but I can imagine it would be very difficult for kids to miss more than two days of school, especially in the weeks leading up to finals,” Byars said.

Wu agreed.

“I think [so many people missing school] has definitely had a negative effect. Although most of my teachers try their best to be accommodating for students who have to stay at home, the online experience is just incomparable to being in school,” Wu said. “A lot of the guidance and discussion is lost when all you see on Canvas are the homework assignments. Finals season is also the time that students who need help need it the most.”

Several Portland Public School (PPS) schools went temporarily online this past January, making the possibility of going online a frequent topic of discussion. Decisions about closures are being made by the district, not individual school administration teams, and are based primarily on staff absences and the number of available substitute teachers in the district, according to PPS. 

Some students support going online.

“I think we should go online. It’s stressful attending school in person for students, and I think it’s also affecting some teachers,” Wu said. “Many of my teachers have young children who are not old enough to be vaccinated, or a number of other COVID-related family issues. I can imagine how stressful it is to balance all of that with preparing students for finals.”

Other students have concerns about going online. 

“I don’t think we should go online because I worry it won’t be good for people’s mental health,” freshman Liam Eldridge said. 

Despite the uncertainties, students are still optimistic.

“Hopefully with boosters [and] more people slowly getting vaccinated, we can eventually get through this,” Byars said. “Lincoln definitely has a pretty high vaccination rate, so we’re lucky people getting sick isn’t as big of a concern as it could have been.”

If you would like to submit your thoughts on PPS school closures or any other issue, click here.