DISTANCE LEARNING: Principal Shelby answers SCHS community’s questions about returning to campus

The Roar asked members of the Bruin community for their most pressing questions regarding returning to in-person learning. Below are those questions answered by Principal Gregory Shelby. 


  1. What are the requirements we need to meet in order to come back to school?

The first step in coming back to school is the hybrid step, where some of our students are going to choose to stay at home and some of our students are going to ask to come back, and we will have students come back on a priority system. But in order for that to be implemented, our county has to get to the orange tier. We’re in purple. We’d have to go through red to orange. There’s not a timeline for that, but we have a plan in place. Generally, we think it’s going to be all virtual Mondays, and then class on Tuesday through Friday either online or in-person. That will happen the Tuesday after we go into orange.


  1. What will hybrid learning look like? What will class look like?

It will look radically different from what school normally looks like. The instruction stays the same. If there are 30 kids in an English class, the same 30 kids are still in that same English class, and it’s still taught via computers just like it is right now. It’s just that some of those kids in that class will actually be in the room with the teacher because as we know, the teacher isn’t teaching 100% of the time. The teacher will share some information, they’ll do the practice problems, and then you guys will go out and work on your own. At that time, the teacher could then check in with the people that are in his or her room and support them individually. For the overwhelming majority of the work, it will be very similar to what’s happening right now. It’s just you’re going to be in a space that makes sense, and you’re going to have an adult there that can help you if you have questions.


  1. What factors are being considered when choosing students to return to the classroom?

There are a handful of factors that we’re using to prioritize. We don’t know how many of these will come into play; it will really come down to how many families say yes, they want to be on campus and how many say no. If that’s 30% versus 40% versus 50%, those play out very differently. We’re looking to prioritize homeless, foster youth, students who are EL, students with an IEP or 504, students who got Ds or Fs in their classes, and students that are receiving wellness services. We will also prioritize seniors that are in jeopardy of not making it to graduation. We will also prioritize students with internet problems. There are a wide variety of factors, and it’s really the students that have a combination of those that will end up being the highest priority and most likely to come back.


  1. Will students who are selected to return be required to come back?

No, the survey that’s happening right now is asking families. They’re being asked, “If you’re invited to come back, would you want to?” We anticipate half or more than half the students will say, “No, I really want to stay at home during this,” and half or a little less than half will say, “Yes, if invited, I will come.” We are assuming that if we do invite people that they’re going to come, but it’s because they’ve already said that’s what they want.


  1. Will teachers and students receive the vaccine before returning?

No. Teachers actually could start receiving the vaccine relatively soon, but we set up this system independent of vaccines. Generally speaking, when all teachers have vaccines, we’re in a completely different scenario that will allow us to do far more in terms of opening schools at a greater rate. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get to the point where all teachers have vaccines and, particularly, the majority of students have vaccines for a little while. This is the setup that we have that does not necessitate vaccines. It is a game-changer for us when at least our teachers and, hopefully, as many students as possible can have vaccines. In terms of the specific rules about that, they have not been established – that has to go through the district – but this is the system we have in place prior to vaccines.


  1. How will social distancing be enforced, and will there be any consequences for not following the precautions?

If someone routinely does not follow social distancing, they will no longer have the ability to come to school. If we cannot convince someone to act safely, we will not be allowing them on campus. We are going to have the admin team and security team as well as our teachers monitoring hallways, monitoring other places. The area of greatest concern is actually passing periods because the rooms will be set up in a way where if you’re sitting at your desk, you’re pretty much fine. During passing periods, we’re going to set it up where there’s certain areas that are one-directional so that no one’s bumping into each other. You don’t have to pass by people very closely, and it will allow people to spread out. Even though we anticipate a far lower number of students on campus, we’re going to be giving 10 minutes for passing periods. The reason for that is we’re going to encourage students to use a wide variety of routes. For example, if you’re in our history hallway, normally, you’d have to go past the English hallway or the library to get to science. We might encourage you to go outside and go past the construction shop to go to the science building so that we use a wide variety of routes. We want to give people the time to do that and encourage people to spread out. Within the hallways, there are going to be arrows used to direct traffic in a one-way fashion.


  1. What would lunch look like?

We’re actually changing the schedule so that the overwhelming majority of students will leave and not eat lunch on campus. We are going to set it up so periods one, three, five, lunch, and seven or two, four, six, lunch. Generally speaking, we do not want people to take off their masks while they’re here at school. And so in order to do that we need the majority of students to eat off campus. So what we’re going to be doing is we’ll have some free take-home food, it’ll actually be breakfast type food. Then as people leave campus we’ll hand them a meal that they’ll take off campus and eat on their own time, either right then if they want, or they can save it for the next day. The next morning breakfast being one group that would eat on campus is the students who are on campus and have a seventh period. But we anticipate that being a relatively low number. 100, 150 maybe – that’s about how many people we can safely have eat on campus, because they can spread out in the quad or in other places on campus and be properly social distanced. If you think of our picnic tables, (they) could handle one or maybe two people per table and still maintain social distance. So, by setting it up this way, we have a small enough number of students on campus where we can safely have them eat. Whereas we really do not think we can safely have everyone eat (with) five or 600 people on campus at the same time. Because they would have to have their masks off. The goal was to have as many students as possible off-campus instead of on (for lunch). Similarly, for our staff, we closed down our faculty lounge, our staff is not allowed to eat together. In fact, we’re not supposed to have more than three adults, in any room the size of a classroom. That’s kind of our maximum. Because we don’t want people together when they’re having masks on.


  1. How will SCUSD handle contact tracing? 

We have a very complex system already in place with a number of different scenarios. There are rules about when we can share information and when we can’t, but, basically, one of our obligations is you would be notified if anyone in close proximity to you had tested positive. You would be notified if anyone in close proximity to you had been exposed to someone who had tested positive. There’s multiple scenarios for how this can play out with specific instructions for each of those. For example, one of the things that we’re going to require of every teacher in every classroom is going to have a seating chart, and it’s going to be mandatory and reported. If there is a student in a particular seat, we will know who was relatively near to them even though no one will be within six feet of that student because of the way we set up the rooms. We will know who was within 10 feet – any distance you like – because of those seating charts. We’ve already been using this system for around the district when there are possible exposures, or actual exposures.


  1. What is the cleaning and sanitization process?

For classrooms, there’s two main things. One is we have a fairly thorough cleaning that will happen, basically, every single night. In addition to the vacuuming and all the other things that normally go along with cleaning – wiping of surfaces, etc. – the district has a tool that is like a fogger that disinfects the room. The room has to be empty and it takes a little while for it to work, but it has been shown to work quite well. Additionally, we’re going to be wiping down high-touch surfaces like desktops, doorknobs; that’ll be done by students and teachers in a monitored fashion every single period. If you were going to be one of the students, you would know that your desk was wiped down prior to you using it.


  1. Will there be an in-person graduation, or online graduation?

We’re going to be putting out a survey very shortly. The answer to that is, most likely, both. What graduation will look like is going to be a combination of events. In the past, we had the one big 3,000 person event that happened at our stadium. It was wonderful, it was a great feeling and had all the ceremony, the pomp and circumstance, unlimited family members could come. That’s not happening. What we’re looking at is creating a combination of events that could have some degree of in-person as well as some things that happen at houses, some things that happen virtually. We’re looking at exactly how to do that, and we’re going to be putting out a survey at the end of this month to get input from our seniors, their parents and our staff about some of the ideas that we have. Last year, we had to put this together very quickly; we actually think we did a pretty darn good job. This year, we have a little bit more time, we can be a little bit more deliberate, and we’re definitely going with the idea that it will be a combination of multiple things that we do to celebrate our seniors. It will not be a full scale 3,000 people in our stadium. We can plan the virtual parts now regardless of the safety conditions. We are looking at having different plans for if we are still in purple, if we are in red, if we are in orange, if we’re potentially even in yellow because it could play out a little bit differently in each of those scenarios. Before we announce any of those plans, we’re going to do a survey, which should come out at the end of February, early March.


  1. Will school events like BOTC and Homecoming resume next year?

One of the upsides of this is this causes us to rethink. There are a lot of things that we’ve rethought about education. There are things in the classroom that we used to do that we realized we don’t have to do. There are things in terms of discipline that we used to do that we don’t have to do. There are things that we realized we haven’t done that we need to do. We are looking at all of our activities. That being said, our most beloved items, particularly Homecoming and Battle of the Classes, I can’t imagine that we’re not going to return to them. They may look slightly different, especially if there’s still any health limitations. Other than graduation, you named the two most popular student activities that we have, so I can’t imagine they are not coming back in some form. They may be slightly altered, but those are our two most cherished things right now, and there’s a strong reason to keep them.


  1. How will sports be affected? 

We have a new schedule of sports where we’ve reorganized the sports. Whether or not fans will be allowed will depend on the color tier, and there’s different rules for each of the tiers. While we’re still in purple, we’re not having fans. You would not be allowed to enter one of our venues to watch a sport. You happen to be in Central Park and the cross country team runs by, that’s a different story, but any events that are in our control, we are not allowing spectators while we’re in purple. We’re hoping to be able to adjust that once we get to red or orange, which will allow certain sports to play, but the guidance right now while we’re in purple is no spectators. That could change potentially when we get to other colors. Family members can come if they are serving a purpose. It takes a certain number of volunteers to run (a sports event). I’ll give you an example. Swimming requires timers. We may be using parents as some of our timers, but we can’t just have parents sitting in the bleachers on the sides. We have to go with the minimum number to be able to run that event.