COVID-19 Concerning Cottleville

How the recent outbreak may affect students at FHC


Gracie Kruep

On Wednesday, March 11, Assistant Principal Dave Stofer takes a student’s name as she provides him with information about her access to technology at home. The district surveyed the entire student population to see who would need help in staying connected to their school in case of school closings due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

A hack or a cough heard by any passerby can evoke a flinch. Hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and even toilet paper has flown off the shelves at supermarkets everywhere. Everyone is tense, waiting for the storm to hit. Waiting for the now-infamous coronavirus.

As the chaos of the virus infects the rest of the world, life in the Francis Howell School District continues to move forward. However, many are concerned as to how to go forth, as the looming threat of disease sits in the mind of every person, as colleges such as Saint Louis University and Maryville close their campuses for the safety of students and faculty. School nurses Keri Prest and Christine Gerling have advice for those uncertain in how to protect themselves. 

“It’s a lot like the flu, they way it’s spread,” Prest said. “Good hand hygiene, if you’re sick, stay home, wipe counter tops, door knobs, things that you touch a lot.”

COVID-19, while still dangerous, seems to portray itself with symptoms similar to the flu; dry cough, fever, head and body aches. However, according to Ms. Prest, it seems to be affecting one specific demographic of the population. 

“I just read that they’re saying that this actually affects a lot of the mid to older population, and we all know that the flu … is really common in young kids,” Prest said.

Meanwhile, students must continue on with their lives, while hearing about the spreading disease from sources all around them. Senior Rachel Fernandez, president of HOSA, accompanied a doctor that studies the spread of disease, and describes the reaction of that doctor to the coronavirus virulence. 

“I have been shadowing the epidemiologist in St. Charles County, they’re pretty worried about it, so am I now. If they’re worried, I’m worried,” Fernandez said. “It’s spreading pretty fast. There were 13 cases when I shadowed and the next day it was 57, and now it keeps increasing. I’m worried because the only way for them to stop it currently is to put [the infected] in isolation. That’s it.”

COVID-19 has officially been declared a pandemic by health organizations across the globe. The respiratory virus has proven itself to be a fast moving monster, infecting many at a rapid pace. As we watch countries such as Italy and China become overswept, many are left wondering about how they will be affected as an outbreak close to home looks increasingly likely. Luckily, for those in FHSD, Dr. Sonny Arnel and the other administrators in the district are working on alternative learning options should a temporary school shutdown become a necessity.

“A lot of our faculty use Google Docs, Schoology, websites, or use some format of communicating with kids,” Arnel said. “We did a survey of our students to find out who has internet service at home and who has access to devices at home, and [we will meet with] the students who don’t have that and offer them opportunities to check some things out of the school library, some books, some hotspots, so if it ever does go into effect and we have to do some time out of school, teachers will still be expected to deliver curriculum to students via online programs.”

A decision on these measures will be made at a later date, depending on several factors that will be assessable upon escalation of the situation closer to home. 

“I think it’s one of those things where we are trying to make a decision…[when everyone is] affected right now because of anxiousness, and concern, and worry,” Dr. Arnel said. “The second part [of this decision] will be when it hits. If it hits, how bad will it hit, if we just have two percent of our student population out and one or two percent of our faculty out, we’ll probably just continue to go forward. We really have to monitor to what extent it causes illness and what extent our students and faculty have to be quarantined, so really it depends on that, so we’ll react once we hit a certain threshold.”

The community of administrators from all over the county are coming together to coordinate efforts on what to do concerning this issue. 

“All of our superintendents, ours and all the other ones in St. Charles county, really are a supportive team, and they communicate on a pretty regular basis their support for their districts and other districts to protect St. Charles county, and they are all having that conversation, ‘At what point do we make decisions of closing schools or doing different things?’ they have a plan,” Dr. Arnel said. 

In the midst of this crisis, the janitorial staff of the school has taken extra precautions to circumvent disease spreading throughout the school. 

“The custodial staff and central office have spent lots of time looking into the best way to clean our buildings, and what needs to be a focus on every night when the night crew comes in to clean our campus,” Dr. Arnel said.

While on spring break, the school will be taking additional measures to ensure the safety of students while deep-cleaning the building. 

“Over spring break, they’re gonna do some additional cleaning and they’ve bought some additional devices and some different materials to come in and clean with, so they’ll do a deeper clean over spring break for us,” Dr. Arnel said.