COVID Climate at H-F


Photo by Ruby Moxley

H-F south gym during lunch

In the past month or so, the Omicron variant has made its way through America quickly, infecting an average of over 715,000 people every day, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

 Cases continuously rise, which caused many school districts to convert to online learning at the return from winter break. H-F, however, was not one of these schools. “The state put parameters in place for online learning, so schools don’t have much of a choice,” said Dr. James Mitchem, H-F’s interim principal. “We didn’t meet the criteria for online learning.”

The decision to proceed normally with school caused a lot of uproar from students and parents. Many were absent in the following days, from either obtaining the virus or being in close contact with someone who did. 

Ever since the first semester, H-F has had generally safe COVID mandates established throughout the campus. “We’re doing the same things we did in the fall, seating in the cafeteria is the same, masking, and social distancing in general,” said Mitchem. Sports and extracurricular activities have been able to proceed as (almost) normal, and cases at the beginning of the year were consistently low.

The cancellation of H-F’s annual Turnabout dance brought much disappointment to the students this year. It was scheduled originally for Feb. 26 but was announced canceled on Jan. 19 due to increased COVID positivity. They instead have decided to focus their planning efforts towards providing a safe and traditional prom in May. “We want to be able to offer opportunities for students to engage in social events, but you also have to weigh that against the fact that we’re going through a global pandemic,” explained Mitchem. “Dances and things of that nature are more of a luxury; a more of a ‘want to do’ than a ‘have to do’”.

Additionally, the annual foreign language tours were canceled. In a typical year, each department would have the opportunity to travel to a country that has a prominent culture of that specific language. Those of course were called off. 

The music department also systems a tour for the band, choir and orchestra every year for one of these groups. Every group travels once every three years, so despite grade level, every student enrolled in the music program has the opportunity to travel. 

The tours are sponsored by HF-FPAC (Homewood-Flossmoor Fine and Performing Arts Council), an independent organization that raises money throughout the year so the music classes can perform in various countries. The 2022 tour was not canceled but modified to a trip around the east coast to cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. 

On the H-F website, you can find COVID dashboards that measure daily new cases and quarantines, updated frequently. The dashboard also shows you the variation between cases in staff and students, as well as a 7-day chart on how many people are tested per day. “It’s not a perfect system and we know it, but every school is having that similar challenge.” Dr. Mitchem said.