Covid Chaos

The last thing I want to write about today is Covid. Two years ago today the whole thing kicked off and my school in Jakarta closed and began online learning, never to return to campus through the remainder of the year. Who would have thought this would still dominate our lives after two years?!?

I ended up moving schools and countries, and I’ve been working in Jeju, South Korea since August of 2020. We’ve been extremely fortunate in Korea with Covid, especially in Jeju, and in the over a year and a half that I’ve been at the school, we’ve have fewer than 10 cases in the entire school of over 1,000 students and over 200 faculty and staff. We’ve been on campus for face-to-face learning the majority of the time I’ve been here, only going online a couple of times when there’s been a case in the Junior School last year. Until recently, no one had been online all of this school year.

While the rest of the world (or at least most of it) has decided to get on with Covid after the virus running rampant through schools, we’ve watched from afar, wondering if it had somehow passed us by. Unfortunately it hadn’t passed us by, it was just delayed. Covid has now infiltrated Korean schools and is rapidly spreading around the Junior School. Luckily for them, it hasn’t hit the Middle or Senior Schools, as the vast majority of their students are fully vaccinated. But with the youngest age able to be vaccinated still 12 in Korea, our youngest learners have been hit the hardest.

What started as a slow burn three weeks ago has rapidly progressed to a fast-spreading fire. The protocol here is that whenever a student or teacher tests positive on a rapid antigen test, the entire class and all teachers who have taught them are tested with rapid antigen tests and sent home for the rest of the day. If we find out about a positive case before school begins, the class doesn’t come to school, tests at home, and begins online learning. After a confirmed case is found in a class (PCR positive), that class quarantines at home for 5 days and is taught online. The number of spreadsheets we have going at the moment is incredible. Keeping track of each student who tests positive, the date they can return to school, who their close contacts were, etc. is literally a full-time job at this point.

As of tomorrow, we have 7 classes (out of a total of 21) who will be online learning, and 4 of those were added just today! I can’t imagine finding out late in the day (or in the case of one class today, at 9:00pm!) that you’ll be teaching online tomorrow. The worst part is that it’s hitting our littlest ones the most at the moment, which means we have most of our 3-5 year olds learning online (synchronously with their normal daily schedule). In the case of a couple of classes, the teacher is home sick too and cannot teach online, so we have pulled other teachers and interns in to cover classes and grade levels they have never taught. It’s an all hands on desk situation at the moment. I taught our preschool students online on Monday and let me tell you, it’s not the easiest task.

All of this happening every day makes it difficult to do my “normal” job, as so much time and energy is spent on this situation. If I’m not meeting to discuss who can be on campus/who can’t, finding cover for missing teachers, rearranging schedules, contact tracing (who did you sit by at lunch?), giving pep talks and hugs to students getting Covid tests done in the make-shift testing center in the office, calming down teachers who are stressed to the max, or writing parent communications, then I’m able to work on my other duties (that continue to pile up each day).

I keep wondering when this wave will go through us and we can get back to face-to-face learning for all classes again. This piecemeal thing is killing us!

24 thoughts on “Covid Chaos

  1. Erika

    Yeah, we were only minorly affected (yet had lots of online learning) and now omicron is really wreaking havoc. Here 3 and 4-year-olds can now be vaccinated, so most cases are not really bad, but bad enough to be home. It is hard to believe that it has been going on for so long. My son in Seoul got Covid recently, but with three vaccines it was very mild for him. Hope it fades soon for us all.

  2. Terje

    I hear you. We were doing pretty well for a long time and I thought that perhaps this year we would be spared of DL. No, at first it was some students absent, then it continued spreading, to many students absent, teachers infected and then the middle school was sent home and eventually the primary students too. Since it was the school’s not the state decision, it was short term and we’ll be back after the winter break. If two years ago we didn’t know anyone who knew anyone with Covid, then now everyone I know has either had it or has had it in the family. My daughter and hubby had it, so did my mom na dad and my sister and her family. Fortunately all with mild symptoms and now fully recovered. My rapid tests have been negative. Sending you energy to cope with the uncertainty and additional work load. Take care! The virus has become no news in Estonia in the light of the war in Ukraine.

    1. aggiekesler Post author

      This is all too often the story everywhere. I think it’s the realization that it’s here, when I thought we might be spared, that’s hard to take. I know we’ll get through it, but I’m pretty sure we will be scarred.
      I imagine with the war in Ukraine, Covid is nothing now. It breaks my heart…:(

  3. livinglife816287820

    I so agree, when is it ever going to end? Australia thought they would escape covid, but have ended up just like every other country…. and now West Australia is just beginning the painful reopening… face to face learning is the only way!

  4. wordjourneysite

    I thought we were about done with Omicron here in DC when my 4 year old Pre-K granddaughter tested positive a few weeks ago. Our Covid bubble burst and we all got it. Thankfully the vaccines and booster helped keep our symptoms to a minimum.
    I am retired now, but my daughter-in-law teaches and though I’ve always known teachers had to be flexible, I gasp in awe at how much more flexible you all have had to be in adapting to these times of Covid. I don’t think I could have done it.
    You are doing everything you can. Remember to take care of yourself too.

    1. aggiekesler Post author

      I’m sorry your granddaughter got it. I hope she’s okay now. My nieces and nephew got it too a while back and I was worried for them. Luckily they were all okay. I’m trying to take care of myself. I took time to relax today, which was nice.

  5. karpenglish

    I feel your pain. Oregon was spared most of the chaos in the first rounds, largely because we are a small state that everyone forgets about, so we don’t have a huge crush of travelers. Or possibly because we had some of the very strictest public health measures in the U.S. in place and every school was online learning for more than a year. This winter, though…we suddenly got hammered with the omicron variant and people were falling sick everywhere, all the time. It was a nightmare, with kids being absent for long stretches, and kids in the classroom trying not to get sick. The wave took a couple of months to pass through, and it was very, very rough on staff and admin and all the interns, etc., as teachers got sick, subs were sparse, and classes were always in some sort of chaos. I hope all your littlest ones in Jeju get well quickly and you are spared a long, long battle to keep the schools safe.

    1. aggiekesler Post author

      I think we have staved it off this long due to the strict restrictions here, but I guess they couldn’t hold back the Omicron dam. I’m hoping it’s not a couple of months like it was for you…we are wearing thin after a couple weeks. The thing about us is we have zero subs. We have to do all cover internally. I hope everyone gets well soon too! Thanks!

      1. karpenglish

        Zero subs is so hard. There are absolutely excellent reasons to keep everything internal in a school like yours- except in the middle of a pandemic. My son’s school keeps things internal too, though they are tiny compared to your 1,000 students. Even so, there have been some bumpy days. But even in my public school district that usually has a pool of subs, they have been few and far between. We sub on our preps and our admin all sub and the student supervisors and librarians and tech people and social workers and everyone all sub…and of course a lot changes in a school when all of those people are pulled away from their jobs! We are coming out of it, but it cost us all a lot.

  6. mschiubookawrites

    Our omicron surge started during break in December and came down at the end of February. Thank goodness for winter break and an additional “snow week” we did not have to revert to virtual. So many people were sick. I thought last year was tough, but this year is tougher. Offering in person school not matter what is exhausting. I’m so sorry for everything you are going through. Hang in there!


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