Mystery Tent Supports Health on Campus


Photo by Diana Gomez

Have you walked around campus and seen the white tent at the side of the administration building, near the Science wing? It would be hard not to! For students who are new to campus, the tent might not have caused much of a shock, but to the upperclassmen, this tent has come as a surprise and has piqued curiosity. Students have an idea of its purpose, but how much is really known about what it’s for and who goes into it?

“I would assume they are sick and need to be tested,” said junior Alondra Lopez Garcia. “They could have symptoms or need their weekly tests.”

The white tent is used mainly for COVID testing purposes, but there are other uses, too. The tent was initially brought to create a space for students to isolate, if anyone has a positive test result, said Office Manager Janelle Fine.

Looking for ways to follow state and county safety protocols, Principal Chris Bischof, Vice Principal Helen Kim and Janelle discussed the need to have a place where symptomatic students could get tested and wait in isolation, since the office would be too central and often full of people. Helen bought the tent to provide a safe and private place for testing, waiting and resting.

Banner in the front office informing students of Eastside’s COVID protocols. (Photo by Diana Gomez)

Janelle oversees the tent and is trained to do testing, with Helen as a backup. Various students may get tested in the tent: Vaccinated students will be tested if they have a fever or three or more other COVID symptoms, or if they have been directly exposed to someone known to have COVID-19; students who experience COVID-19 symptoms will take an antigen test, meanwhile, unvaccinated students take a PCR test every week. As part of her training, Janelle learned to keep each student distracted and to avoid using trigger words such as, “This won’t hurt very much”. She also strives to be efficient and to calm students by saying, “It’s quick.” Janelle is also prepared with tissue boxes, extra masks and other things to help students feel more comfortable. Recently, students have been given the option to swab themselves, and they seem to prefer it, Janelle said.

At the moment, Eastside does not have the resources to administer PCR tests and has therefore partnered with a private company called “Target Dx Laboratory”. This company charges the students’ medical insurance for performing the test, but if a student doesn’t have insurance, the school will cover the costs. Eastside is also looking into engaging with a state program that would allow the school to conduct PCR tests, keep student records, monitor cases and receive results. The state program would be free of cost to the student and school.

In some cases, this white tent has caused anxiety for students who are getting tested. It makes them question what their peers are thinking of them and how they might be perceived negatively.

“The tent itself wasn’t any issue for me, for me I was worried that people were going to start saying, ‘Oh they’re not vaccinated’ and stuff,” said one senior who asked to remain anonymous. “But other than that, I have no problem with getting tested, and it’s also for my safety and everyone else’s.”

Mostly, though, students who haven’t been into the white tent seem to accept and understand that some students will be tested at school.

“I don’t know their situation so you can’t really judge them,” said junior Uriel Velazquez-Leon.

Sophomore Janelle Gonzales agreed. “They feel sick and want to make sure they’re safe and to protect the community by staying safe,” she said.

Office Manager Janelle said Eastside is acting responsibly in getting access to tests without causing additional burdens to families. She feels proud of the student body for not being judgmental or calling each other out.

“I would say to give students being tested some space,” Janelle said. “This is not the time or the place to talk about that, and to be respectful.”