COVID Surges at ERHS Raises Concern and PGCPS Temporary Shutdown


Empty ERHS classroom. Photo provided by Leuterio Thomas, LLC Architects & Engineers

Augustina Alapa, Staff Writer

Change has been a recurring theme this 2021-2022 school year. COVID has brought on the most change to how the school year has looked so far. 


Since coming back from Thanksgiving break on November 29, 2021, the ERHS community had been receiving positive COVID case emails from Principal McNeil. The emails had been constant with at least one covid case a day. As a result, it had raised a lot of concern within the ERHS community as it is shown an uptrend in cases at the school. 


There had been faculty meetings on how to combat the rising cases and promote safety. Teachers had been told to emphasize more COVID safety rules and stick strictly to the seating chart, which prohibits unnecessary interaction between students. Mr. Bradbury, AP Capstone Program Coordinator, and ERHS English teacher recall that teachers were told to “wipe down desks” and promote “wear[ing] masks and [to] be vigilante,” to create a more COVID-friendly environment. Ms. Kormar, a science teacher at ERHS, had her students “wipe down their desks” at the end of every class. In addition, she had “hand sanitizer [students] [could] use as they enter and leave or any other time,” she also tries “at the end of the day wipe down any common surfaces like the desk [she] sit[s] at, the passes, I’ll spray them at the end of the day.” This routine is similar to most teachers, if not all teachers, at the ERHS.


Likewise, the uptrend had also caused a lot of concern among students like ERHS senior, Cora Jackson. Jackson was worried about “bringing it home to my high-risk mother and sister. Both of them have autoimmune disorders.” In addition, for many other students, their biggest concern was getting covid. Pamela Awobajo, an ERHS senior, recalls being “contact traced” because someone with whom she was in close contact had gotten COVID. She also has not been able to “get vaccinated yet” which puts her at a higher risk of contracting the virus. 


In a morning announcement made on December 9, 2021, Mr. McNeil reassured listeners that the school is “nowhere close to a lot of cases or anything that would cause any sort of shutdown.” School administration does not have the power to shut down schools, that authority is given to the county health department. 


Fast forward to December 17, 2021, Dr. Monica Goldson, the Chief Executive Officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools, sent an email to the PGCPS community that due to the “stark rise in COVID-19 cases throughout our school system, all students will transition to virtual learning, effective Monday, December 20 through Thursday, December 23,” and then after winter break, the online learning will end January 14, 2022.


Jackson says that “this decision is definitely good and will hopefully help winter break Covid cases from traveling, gatherings, etc. die down a little bit.” She is hoping that while we are back online, people could take this chance to “get vaccinated and minimize the spread of serious Covid-19 variants.” She exclaims that the “pandemic needs to turn into an endemic eventually.” 


As of right now, the ERHS community is trying its best to handle being online again. Students have been allocated time to pick up their personal belongings from their lockers, as well as Chromebooks and any materials they will need for virtual learning. PGCPS is expected to return in person on January 18, 2022.