Flu season stress infects Carlmont community

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Robin Linares

Students report more academic stress during flu season because they find it difficult to catch up after missing class. “That is why many of the kids come to school sick, spreading the germs; they are told, ‘I won’t allow any late work,’ or ‘I will not let you make up a test,’” said Leonor Perez Zarco, Carlmont’s attendance clerk.

The cold air and leafless trees mark the end of the fall semester when students are preparing for finals and the much-needed winter break that follows.

However, the semester’s closing brings an unwelcome guest: the flu.

Over the past few months, marking the beginning of flu season, student absences have increased. As more empty desks pop up in the classrooms, some are becoming concerned.

“Personally, flu season has made me more paranoid,” said Asha Mehta, a sophomore. “I’m still wearing a mask throughout the day to avoid getting the flu or COVID-19.”

The number of people out sick makes it harder to turn to other classmates for help on assignments they missed.

“It’s not just me getting sick; it’s everyone, which means that other people are out of class and that if I need help, my friends are also out sick,” said Sam Dechaine, a junior at Carlmont.

The number of student absences doesn’t only affect students. Leonor Perez Zarco, Carlmont’s attendance clerk, is responsible for keeping track of all absences and answering phone calls and emails from parents.

“It has been busy, and emails are nonstop,” Zarco said. “There are times when parents get upset because they think that we don’t answer the phone, but we have over 2200 kids and eight phone lines that we try to answer. Sometimes, all of these lines are on hold.”

According to Zarco, the number of monthly absences has spiked over the past few months, with one day having 93 absences.

“It has been very overwhelming. There are times that I want to cry and just close my eyes, saying, ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’” Zarco said.

You’re not a machine, and neither am I. Life does happen, irrespective of our best-laid plan.”

— Dina Cousin

Teachers have also felt the influx of student absences. Dina Cousin, an ethnic studies and government teacher, explained how she works with students who are out sick.

“In scheduling when students make up work, especially if they’ve missed an exam or they’ve missed a project, it’s enforced that they email me to let me know that they are sick,” Cousin said.

On the other side of this communication, many students appreciate teachers’ efforts.

“My teachers have been pretty understanding, and most teachers usually post the assignments on Canvas,” said Ai Yamamoto, a senior at Carlmont. “My stats teacher emails the absent students. I found that really helpful when I was absent.”

While most teachers are supportive when students need to catch up in class, sometimes the added stress of makeup work isn’t worth it for students, who may decide to head to school despite feeling sick.

“There’s definitely a lot of stress because it’s difficult to make up the work you miss in your high school classes. I think teachers try their best, but it can be a stressful environment when you get back because you’re anxious to get all your work done, which makes you want to go to school in the first place, so you don’t have to make it all up,” Dechaine said.

Cousin sympathizes with students that need to make up work in her class.

“I’m not the only teacher that they have, and so it must be really stressful for them when they do come back, and they’re feeling better to all of a sudden look back at Canvas and see that it’s not just one missing assignment for my class, but they might have, three, four, or five missing assignments,” Cousin said.

As Carlmont heads towards review week and finals, Zarco reiterates the importance of ensuring students feel their best.

“Next week is review week, and then it’s finals. We want to make sure all the kids are healthy,” Zarco said.

All students and teachers can do to make it through the flu season is their best, according to Cousin.

“You’re not a machine, and neither am I. Life does happen, irrespective of our best-laid plan,” Cousin said.