Westridge Postpones Return to School, Adds New Rules Due to the Omicron Variant


Elaine Lee

Westridge seniors stand for a photo while masked up on the first day of school.

On the night of December 28th, Head of School, Mrs. Elizabeth McGregor announced via email that Westridge students and faculty will not be returning to school on the previously planned Monday, January 3rd. Instead, school will reopen Thursday the 6th. 

I just hope that this three-day delay doesn’t turn into anything more and that our community can get vaccinated and stay safe so that we may possibly return to normality.

— Holly N. ’25

McGregor wrote in her email: “We understand this delay will create challenges for some families. However, after closely watching the rapid increase in positive COVID cases over the past week and-a-half, learning how some of our community members are already testing positive despite being vaccinated, and speaking with health professionals, we are certain that these changes are in the best interest of the health and safety of our community members and will ultimately help us keep students on campus and in-person for learning. We appreciate your understanding and assistance over the next several weeks as we navigate the post-holiday surge.”

Omicron has ravaged the country breaking records new records. On Wednesday, December 29th, the US broke its single-day case record. According to the New York Times, “​​Hospitalizations have been rising, averaging more than 71,000 a day, but remain far below peak levels. While deaths have also been increasing, the daily average of 1,243 is a fraction of the record 3,342 reported on Jan. 26.” 

Graph shows daily reported cases and currently, the US is reporting higher number than they ever did. (The New York Times)

Another Pasadena independent school, Polytechnic School has also postponed their start of school in-person, now going online entirely for their first school week. Polytechnic students, faculty, and staff will now begin testing weekly starting in the week of January 10.

The New York Times graphic showing Los Angeles County as a hotspot for COVID. (The New York Times)

Additionally, McGregor announced that Westridge has updated their COVID-19 protocols. Now, students are required to wear KN95 masks or N95 masks. Westridge has no plan to supply students with these masks but will provide assistance to students if necessary. Large on-campus meetings will remain either online or outdoors. As of right now, the testing schedule will remain the same, taking place on Tuesdays.

For the second year in a row, Homecoming events have been canceled. Both Varsity Basketball and Varsity Soccer teams would have played games as a part of the event. Director of Upper School Gary Baldwin did say that there is a possibility for Homecoming to be rescheduled. 

Due to the significant increase in cases of COVID-19 over break and the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant we have decided to postpone the reopening of school until Thursday, January 6 and will require all students and employees to provide proof of a negative PCR test administered Monday, January 3 or later before returning to campus.

— Mrs. McGregor in her school-wide email

Maya C. ’24 was going to play in her first homecoming game. “I’m disappointed of course, since the season started I had been looking forward to homecoming,” she said in response to its cancellation. “It sucks that I’m missing what would have been my first time playing the homecoming game, but I feel even worse for the seniors who are missing their last game.”

McGregor’s email also included a reminder about mandatory vaccination for students. Students aged 12 and under will be required to have had their second dose by January 31. Students aged 16-18 are required to have received their booster shot by the end of March but are encouraged to receive the dose as soon as they reach their 6-month eligibility mark. Baldwin stated that there may be an opportunity for another vaccination clinic due to recent events.

As of right now, Baldwin said, there are no plans to move Westridge back to online learning. The administration has no desire to do so unless absolutely necessary. He went on to say, “At the same time, I’ve learned to never say never in this pandemic.”

Some members of Westridge’s class of 2028 attend online school last year with matching Microsoft Teams backgrounds. (@westridgeschool on Instagram)

Despite the fact that the administration still has no plans to move school back online, some students still have concerns. Holly N. ’25 was a student at Westridge at the height of the pandemic and experienced firsthand remote learning. “The delay in school reopening scares me because it’s reminiscent of March 2020,” she said. “Everyone thought this was going to be a two-week ordeal, but now, almost three years later, it almost feels as if very little progress has been made. Cases are at an all-time high now, and the spike really scares me. All I’ve seen all over social media is people sharing that they got Covid, and now I’m hearing that some of my family has Covid or has been in contact with people with Covid. This is the first time I’ve been this worried over Covid, I think the reason for that is because hearing how many of my family and friends have it really concerns me. ”

The three-day delay in school feels like it could end up being more, and we could potentially have another March 2020 situation where we have to go back to online school. That brings up another fear in itself because after going through that experience of online school, it’s not really one I want to go back to.

— Holly N. ‘25

Marian Chen is a mother of a Westridge freshman.  “I think it’s important that we ensure the safety of the students with mandatory vaccination, including boosters, as well as weekly testing,” she said. “I think having upper and lower school segregated as much as possible (as Omicron seems to be very viral with the younger age group) and mandating anyone 12 years and older to get a booster, plus strict masking while indoors suffices as precautionary and preventive measures. For me, going back to online learning is not warranted—especially when the CDC does not recommend it at this juncture.”

This isn’t the first time or even the second that schools have had to pivot in response to CDC recommendations, and it’s unlikely to be the last. “Like everyone else, I just want this all to be over and for everyone to come through it healthy and well,” Baldwin concluded. “It has been an incredibly hard time for everyone with all of the changes, and the worry, and the uncertainty. I just want it to be over—for everyone. At the same time, I’m also incredibly proud of everyone in our community for how they’ve come together, figured out new paths, and supported one another.” 


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