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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Seniors Worry About COVID Impact on IB

Seniors studying together on campus. Though seniors spent a long time studying for their IB exams, some won’t even get to sit the exams due to being infected with COVID. (Courtesy of Beka Tatham)

IB exams have just begun and will run from April 28 to May 20. However, their timing coincided with a COVID-19 outbreak in the school, leaving some seniors unable to sit their exams, and others stressed over the possibility of getting sick.

Throughout the week of April 25, the Upper School saw a huge rise in COVID cases for the first time in months. Though their grade has the fewest cases, with nine out of 68 students testing positive, the Class of 2022 is still concerned about getting infected before their IB exams. 

For senior Enrico Vittori, the possibility of catching COVID is at the forefront of his mind. 

“It’s definitely quite concerning for us seniors. We had our first exam Thursday and three or four people from my class were unable to take it due to testing positive. The fact that everything started happening the same week of the exams was something quite worrying,” he said. 

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On the other hand, it is not the main worry on everyone’s minds, including senior Jasper Courtney. 

“Yes, we don’t want to get it and yes, there is that stress for it. But it’s not as strong as [the stress] to perform or at a certain level, [or that] we have to get certain achievements,” he said, referring to the exams themselves. 

While no senior wants to catch COVID, there are other worries that overpower that, such as the need to perform at a certain level, and get certain achievements and scores. 

Senior Ana Diaz-Young tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, April 26. Due to her infection, she had to miss her first IB exam for physics, which took place on Thursday, April 28. When she tested positive again on May 1, it meant that she will have to quarantine for five more days, missing her exams for History, Design Technology and Paper 1 of Math.

Diaz-Young is not very worried about missing her exams, since her grades will not impact her as much as other seniors. She is already going to a college in the US, which also does not take much IB credit. Though she is glad she didn’t have to sit the exam, which she heard was very difficult from her classmates, Diaz-Young is slightly stressed over what is going to happen next.

“I’m not really in control of what’s going to happen with my grade, so that’s a little nerve-wracking,” she said.

According to Grades 11/12 Assistant Principal James Bourke, once he alerts the IB through an online form about a student missing an exam, the IB will conduct a certain procedure to calculate a predicted grade based on the student’s Mock Exam and Internal Assessment (IA). Though last year, WIS did not have to do this, Bouke is ready to support students.

Diaz-Young talked to Bourke when she found out that she had a COVID exposure and was informed about the procedure, but rumors circulating the Class of 2022 are confusing her, such as whether the grade depends on the school’s past performance or not.

The predicted grades, while being based mainly on student work, will also take into account how the school as a whole has generally performed in previous years in that exam. 

Courtney, though not sick, also expressed concern over possibly having to miss exams and rely on predicted grades. He is applying to colleges overseas where grades matter a lot and could get him credits.

“Of course, I might have that one subject or two that I’ll clearly take [the grade I get on the day of the exam]. But then there probably might be others that I would prefer my predicted grade over [that],” he said.

The rise in COVID throughout the Upper School allegedly came after the spring dance on Friday, April 22. Diaz-Young thinks she got infected while with friends after the dance, rather than the dance itself, but she is still concerned with how the dance was organized.

“It was not the best idea to have the spring dance the week before exams started,” she said.

Vittori agrees with Diaz-Asper about the dance’s timing being inconvenient. 

“Maybe the dance being right before wasn’t too helpful,” he said. “It was a recipe for disaster. But what happened, happened.”

Diaz-Asper also believes that the administration did not do enough to prevent the Class of 2022 from getting sick before exams. She thinks a mask mandate should have been put in place for her grade level in the weeks leading up to the start of exams, especially after a case in her grade was reported around two weeks ago. 

“[The spread] could have been prevented if people were masked earlier,” she said. 

According to Diaz-Asper, the outbreak in COVID cases has been a grade bonding experience as they discuss the situation. Some people have been joking about trying to get infected so they can miss exams, but for Diaz-Asper, there is a lack of closure after two years in the IB program.

“I do feel like if I do end up missing more exams, it’ll feel, not sad because obviously taking five hours of exams is not very fun, but I think it will feel like I didn’t complete [the IB],” she said.

Senior Nadim Mottu is also missing exams. He tested positive on Wednesday, April 27 and missed his IB Paper 1 and Paper 2 physics exam, and it’s still up in the air if he will be able to take his IB math exam depending on when he tests negative. Similar to Diaz-Asper, Mottu agrees that there is a lack of closure and a sense of incompleteness. 

“I feel like no matter what the grade they give me, it won’t feel good to get it. If it’s a high grade I’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t actually deserve that because I didn’t take the exam.’ If it’s a low grade, I’ll think, ‘Oh, I would have done better had I taken the actual exam.’ So there’s no good situation,” Mottu said. 

Mottu and Vittori in a situation similar to Courtney, due to them holding a UK Conditional offer. The IB test grades are extremely important when planning to study at a university abroad, particularly in the UK. 

“It really sucks a lot,” said Mottu. “Especially after spending two years preparing for an exam, and only finding out you’re not going to take it two days before, after you’ve already spent a month preparing for it, putting together study guides and practicing. It sucks a lot to not take the exam and never get the closure on courses you spent two years working on and all of a sudden never knowing how you would have done on the actual exam.”

Despite this, Mottu isn’t as upset over the spring dance. 

“We couldn’t really have known this would’ve happened. It was outdoors, I didn’t think that anything would happen. I thought it would be a nice break before IB exams,” he said.

The seniors agree that it all boils more down to unforeseen circumstances, and just bad timing, rather than intention or planning. 

“Nobody could have predicted that someone would have had COVID and the dance would happen and everyone would get it. It’s more unfortunate than bad planning,” Vittori said. 

However, whether or not the school has handled the situation well is up for debate. Mottu believes that the school could have implemented more measures to protect seniors and students. 

“I think once cases started to increase, we should have probably started to go back to wearing masks at school and the dance,” he said. “I think it might’ve been too early in lifting those precautions. I continued to wear a mask afterward [but] I wish I had worn a stronger mask or one at the dance. There was more I could’ve done and the school could’ve done.” 

While Mottu and Diaz-Young believe that implementing precautions earlier may have alleviated some of the spread, Vittori doesn’t agree with regards to the dance and precautions. Possibly requiring a negative antigen test to attend the dance would have been beneficial, but Vittori didn’t think masks would be the way to go. 

 “Maybe an at-home test would’ve been the best thing to do, but probably not masks. I think that people would still say they tested negative even if they hadn’t,” Vittori said.

To minimize the spread, the school has put sophomores and juniors into distance learning for April 28 and April 29, which Vittori believes is a satisfactory response to the current situation.

“There’s not too much that can be done… Even if you are wearing masks, you have to be very careful to not take them off whenever, they have to be worn properly, which is obviously difficult for everyone in the whole school to abide by,” he said. 

Bouke suggests the same COVID mitigation strategies that have been used throughout the pandemic to seniors who wish to stay safe. 

“I think students who are trying to be more cautious should consider wearing a mask during their exams,” he said. “But we’re not requiring anybody [to] just because it’s not the policy of the school right now.”

While the school dance and masking policies were within the school’s reach, there is another factor at play in the IB exams that Mottu in particular believes needs to be addressed. 

“[WIS is] doing their best, but I don’t think the IB is doing enough,” he said. “I wish they would give an opportunity to retake exams or something like that. I think the current system does not make much sense.” 

While the COVID cases have been rippling through high school, the seniors are having to face it at a time when their health and their ability to sit their IB exams are crucial. While a predicted grade gets the job done, after two years of the pandemic, quarantine, hybrid learning and IB stress, the lack of fulfillment is something that will stick for many. However, the school is ready to support seniors through this entire process. 

“We’re prepared,” Bourke said. “We have known about COVID for a long time. We know what the IB procedures are. We’re here to support anybody who needs that support. We’ll deal with situations if and when they arise.”

By Naomi Breuer and Elektra Gea-Sereti

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About the Contributors
Naomi Breuer
Naomi Breuer, Editor-in-Chief
I am Editor-in-Chief of Dateline this year. As a junior last year, I was a Publications Editor and Middle School News Advisor. As a sophomore, I was WIS News Editor, and Arts Editor as a freshman. Other than Dateline, I enjoy baking, playing guitar, biking and participating in Model UN.
Elektra Gea-Sereti
Elektra Gea-Sereti, Opinions Editor
Hi my name is Elektra and I am a senior plus the Opinions editor. I have been at Dateline since 9th grade, and my opinion articles range from social media trends to movie reviews. While not being opinionated can be strenuous, I do write the occasional sports, features, and food article. Outside of Dateline, you can find me on the volleyball court, or debating people in Mock Trial. 

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