The close contact system at the iSchool


Adriano Grassi and Samuel Espinobarros

When we came back to school this past September, the main consensus was relief, but also that we wouldn’t be in school for very long. Now with the spread of the Omicron variant, schools have had to adopt new policies.

The response to the large numbers of cases was the close contact system. The current system is if you were found to be a close contact to somebody who tested positive for COVID, you would be given two Covid tests. One test to take the day of, and the other to take five days later.

That system was implemented in January, after almost half the school, and a very high percentage of students across the city stayed home the days before winter break out of fear of COVID.   

Students were informed on January 2nd by email, “Moving forward, home test kits will be provided to everyone who is identified as close contacts. If students receive a negative test result and have no symptoms they can continue attending school regardless of vaccination status. All staff and every student will receive an at-home COVID test during last period when we return.” The iSchool administration also stated that under DOE guidelines, the school was allowed only four students to be PCR tested every week.

The next day, however, Ms. Bailey had to go back on her statement, as the DOE would not allow for daily at-home rapid tests to be given for every close contact email that a student received. Rather, the administration was instructed that a student was to receive no more than two at-home rapid tests a week.

That at-home rapid test policy went into effect the week after, and the four students PCR testing policy has never materialized. 

Many students said another lockdown is possible, but that may not be the case. Schools still managed to stay open despite the seemingly deadlier Delta variant. But whether or not schools close is not within our control, though it does seem like the close contact system is working the way the Situation Room intended. The real dilemma, however, is if iSchoolers even want to go back to online school or continue with the current close contact system. 

In a poll of 23 students, only 13% said that they think the close contact system is working. 73.9% said that it was an OK system, but could improve, while 13% said that it’s a terrible system and should be changed. 

In addition, 47.8% of the school said they’ve missed at least a day of school, with 34.8% of those missing 5 or more days. 

Only 13% of the students say the school is taking the necessary precautions against COVID. 69% say they are somewhat taking the necessary precautions, and many students said that others are not following the mask rules while in school. 

Some iSchoolers agreed with the poll results. “The close contact system got a lot better, especially with the at home tests,” said Sabrina Colon, a senior. “I’ve seen a lot of kids not follow the mask rule, especially as a TA I’ve had to remind kids, mostly sophomores and freshmen,” she added.

The “close contact system was pretty good at keeping me informed, and I feel like more people getting tested is a good sign of getting a better idea of where the school is at,” said Sam Nutter, a senior. 

Juniors Joel Gonzales, and Samera Hayes said that the mask enforcement was going well, and that the current close contact system is working.    

Given that cases are dropping, the close contact system might not be needed as much anymore. However, that all depends on if cases stay stable after the removal of the indoor mask mandate in New York.


(Editors Note) As of March 1st, the iSchool has increased the in-student testing to around 40 students per week.