January absences hit a district-wide total of 98,333; COVID-19 related


Diana Rodriguez

A tour of La Quinta High School on Fri., April 2, 2021 during the first week of the hybrid learning model.

Throughout the month of January, there was a surge of absences in classrooms, mostly due to COVID-19 cases and other unknown reasons. 

According to Kelly Perlo, the student attendance specialist at Desert Sands Unified School District, there were a total of 9,059 student and staff absences in January at La Quinta High School and 98,333 for the entirety of the school district. 

Some students who suffered from the virus dealt with academic struggles. Not only was students’ and teachers’ attendance an issue, but students also missed a lot of work that they have to deal with from home. 

Carter McKee ‘22 was one of those students.

He was out for nearly two weeks due to COVID-19. The process of returning to school proved to be difficult and confusing.  

“Apparently, the district has to send you an email that states you are clear to come back, even though I was gone for 12 days. The students that were in the office that got sent there for the same reason had got that email, so they sent us to the isolation gym,” said McKee. 

“For me, personally, I wasn't too stressed about homework or other assignments because I try to stay on top of everything. But I do know that this is a big problem for people that have to miss out for 10 days and oftentimes are too sick to try and catch up,” McKee said. 

“The district should send you an email allowing you to come back after 10 days,” said Rebecca Zamora, an attendance specialist from La Quinta High, in January. 

McKee wasn't allowed to come back after 10 days: he checked and hadn’t received an email. 

He then was told to go home and had his father email a DSUSD office nurse, stating that he had completed his time quarantined and was perfectly fine to come back. McKee was later approved to come back to school the next day. 

Dominick Lopez ‘22, another student who contracted COVID-19, gave his view on this topic.

“I was gone for about a week, but beforehand, I was unaware that I was positive because I had no symptoms. It was the weekend and the nurse had told me to take a test. If it comes back negative, I can come back. It was taking a while for it to return to me though, so I figured it was best to stay home,” he said. 

“As I was staying home, it came back positive. It was a good thing I stayed home, but I knew I was going to fall behind on schoolwork,” said Lopez. 

“The weekend started to approach. I was getting notifications that a new assignment was posted. I'm not going to lie, I was ignoring them and was planning to do them the day before because there was way too much,” said Lopez. 

While he began to experience some stress, he knew he could deal with the missing assignments. 

After Alyssa Torres ‘23 had COVID-19, she transferred from La Quinta High to Horizon after the month of January.

“I had tested myself and it came back positive. I have been out since the beginning of the second semester. After the first week of being gone, I was falling too far behind. I had to talk to my mother about switching to home studies because I felt as if I was never going to get back on track,” said Torres. 

Athena Parker ‘25 had stayed home for three weeks and was sad during the time they were home because of feeling so isolated. 

“I couldn't see my family and friends. It was also sad because my work started piling up and I couldn't catch up,” they said. 

From Parker’s experience, coming back was normal; however, some classes were confusing. 

Parker said, “For the most part, teachers told me what I needed to catch up on and gave me all the materials I needed.”

Not only do students have to worry about missing out, the teachers feel the same as well. 

Caryn Charles, who teaches Spanish, also had to overcome recovering from COVID-19 during the school year.

“I was unable to do much work for two-and-a-half weeks. I was very weak,” Charles said. 

She had to give and do work at a slower pace while at home. When asked about students who missed school because of COVID, she said she felt empathy for them.

“I always miss the students who are absent. I sometimes feel as though they are missing out on learning, which makes me sad,” Charles said.