DISTANCE LEARNING: SCUSD discusses second semester plans

As SCHS finishes out the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year in distance learning, SCUSD has made continuous progress in developing a reopening plan. The district is looking at different models of hybrid learning to figure out a safe yet effective model that supports students and staff.

“We have been looking at multiple different models of hybrid, and we are relatively close to selecting a model,” Principal Gregory Shelby said. “We will definitely be going to a hybrid first, and we recognize that there are families who do not want their children to participate, and we must accommodate for that.”

The district is also looking at how well students perform during distance learning. They will base their decision on students’ home environments while considering factors such as technology issues and younger siblings. 

“We’re developing a list of priorities and those priorities will be communicated to our community, and then we’ll advise students based on the criteria,” SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said. 

Santa Clara County is currently in the Purple Tier. In order to implement hybrid learning, the Dec. 3, 2020 District Update states that county coronavirus cases must be trending down for two weeks before the tier is moved down to the Red Tier from the Purple Tier. The tier is determined by the amount of new daily cases and the rates of positive cases. After those requirements are met, schools may begin to open up the first Monday after two weeks in the Red Tier. 

Kemp said that SCUSD does not see this happening before the second semester. 

The district wants to reopen as soon as possible but understands schools cannot open until it is safe again, according to Kemp. Even online, the SCUSD has made numerous efforts to support all of the families affected physically, emotionally and mentally by the pandemic.

“We’re giving hotspots to students without reliable technology, we have our wellness programs and we have our counselors and our wellness coordinators reaching out to students,” Kemp said.

Although academic challenges have increased in distance learning for many students and staff, they mixed opinions about reopening. Sophomore Ayush Gupta believes that the district is not moving too quickly with the reopening.

“I think they are not going too fast mainly because I know SCUSD will be taking so many precautions,” Gupta said. “With those precautions in place, everybody can be able to stay safe as long as everyone is doing their part.”

English teacher Daniel Eaton, however, believes that due to the recent surge in cases, it is not safe to return to school.

“Especially considering the current surge in the last few weeks, there needs to be a necessary rethinking,” Eaton said. “I do not think that the district planned for the surge that is currently happening, and I think it is unsafe for us to go back right now.”

Freshman Karel Brondial agrees. She will not be coming back to school once the district allows hybrid learning.

“Just to be safe because the cases are going up again,” Brondial said. “Even if we did change schedules, there would be a lot of people going, so I don’t think it would change anything.”

As of now, teachers in the district are not given a choice on whether or not they would want to return to school.

“I have not seen any language written about a choice to return, but I know we are continuing to bargain as a teacher’s union,” Eaton said. “We are continuing to bargain because we want to make sure it’s safe for us to return.”

SCHS counselor Amoreena Fidani believes that students have gained more knowledge about technology due to distance learning.

“It allows students to be more independent and to increase their knowledge and their working use of technology,” Fidani said.

Through shared experiences, Shelby believes that the SCHS community has grown stronger together. He appreciates the effort that students have shown during these difficult times and notices growth in the community.

“One of our great hopes is to come out of this as better educators and to have students who authentically own their own educational experience,” Shelby said. “One of the most gratifying things is to see students who learn for the sake of learning and learn for the love of learning in this environment. We will be a stronger school after this experience.”