School reports record absences due to illness

Justin Tang and Nathan Wang

The school reported a record-breaking 344 sick absences in November this year, the most since March 2019, according to Student Discipline and Attendance coordinator Gabriel Preciado. In the most recent Chronicle Poll, 67% of students said they were recently sick.

65 students were absent due to illness on Nov. 7 alone, according to data retrieved from the number of absence forms submitted through the parent portal.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged symptomatic students to stay home.

“I do think that COVID-19 actually caused people to be more mindful of staying home,” Slattery said. “Now, if you are coming to school and you’re coughing, other people will police you, so you also don’t want to kind of get shamed. I think people stay home because they’re embarrassed to come to school sick.”

Community Health Officer Milo Sini said he advises students, sick or not, to consistently practice good health practices.

“It’s this balance of having a really high immune system, which includes plenty of sleep, good eating habits, taking your vitamins and doing all those things, which becomes a little bit hard,” Sini said. “[Students] stay up late and study late and what have you. My advice is to try to have a balanced life, and predominantly, sleep and good nutrition are key.”

President Rick Commons said the school values an in-person learning environment as much as the well-being of the students.

“We’ll prioritize being in person in as normal a fashion as possible alongside the health and safety of our community,” Commons said. “Those do seem to me to sometimes be an inverse relationship, and that’s a challenge.”

Aviv Pilipski ’25, who was absent for a week in September due to the flu, said returning to school was difficult because of the schoolwork that piled up during his absence.

“My experience was stressful, to say the least,” Pilipski said. “This stress not only took its toll physically in the classroom, but I was also feverish and stressing over missed lessons and assignments. I had to review and learn missed information for missed tests while also having to simultaneously learn new material for a test in the future. It was this stressful and really frustrating game of catch-up.”

Upper School History Teacher Katherine Holmes-Chuba said it is a challenge when students miss classes, as teachers often have limited time to meet outside of the classroom.

“Teachers have anywhere from 50 to 80 students and to be running after them, and kind of chasing them down [is] time-consuming,” Holmes-Chuba said. “With increased absences, teachers are just busier right now. I’ve been working through my lunches most of the time because I’m catching people up.”

Zoe Kramar ’24, who missed six days of school due to COVID-19, said her teachers were flexible and thoughtfully acknowledged her situation.

“When I returned to my classes, additional work piled on to old assignments from my absence, which resulted in a stressful few weeks of catching up,” Kramar said. “Luckily, my teachers were extremely understanding and supportive, making up lessons with me outside of class and granting further extensions.”

Although some students stay home in order to recover, Dale Kim ’25 said he notices his peers come to school sick to avoid missing important class material.

“One reason students often appear at school even though they are sick is because they’re anxious about the workload they will have to return to if they miss school,” Kim said. “I’ve seen workload anxiety cause my classmates to sacrifice their physical comfort and health for the small return of staying up to date with academic material.”

Kramar said staying home was critical to prevent the spread of her illness to others.

“While catching up was exhausting, I took comfort in the fact that I was keeping my family, friends and community safe,” Kramar said. “Staying home might have been frustrating, but it was ultimately the right decision.”