The SUHSD school board unanimously supported the recommendation to continue distance learning for the second quarter, and possibly longer.
At the monthly board meeting on Sept. 16, 2020, one of the items on the agenda was for each of the board members to give updates to COVID-19 and discussing the recommendation to return to campus. Superintendent Mary Streshly could not attend the meeting because she is currently taking personal days, according to the school board president, Allen Weiner.
The board then asked Edith Salvatore, the president of the Sequoia District Teachers Association, to give an update on behalf of SDTA and explain what the union has been working on.
“Teachers are definitely getting into a groove at this point with adding new things to their curriculum delivery. The uncertainty of the future still weighs heavily,” Salvatore said. “Other situations within the district are also weighing on teachers, and we hope that we will be able to have updates on all of those processes sooner rather than later.”
Some students agree with Salvatore regarding teacher progress; however, there are still concerns with distance learning.
“I think the teachers, for the most part, have adjusted their classes really well but I’m worried that a lot of content is being skimmed over because we don’t have as much class time. Continuing remote learning wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I definitely miss my friends,” said Kayla Hogan, a junior.
Then, Associate Superintendent Crystal Leach gave an update to COVID-19 in regard to the county regulations. She outlined that the district has personal protection equipment and is making changes in classrooms to increase airflow, as well as other safety enhancements. Although these precautions are being taken, students and staff cannot go back if our county is still in the “purple tier.” Her recommendation is to continue with virtual learning.
“There is a lot that we do not know. We do not know what tier and color we may be in or the additional information about the virus. We will learn, and we will make this decision together based on the safety of all of our employees, students, and information from the health department,” Leach said.
Board Vice President Alan Sarver echoed the recommendation of Leach. Sarver suggests that distance instruction could continue until a vaccine is widely taken up, possibly extending through the entire school year. Along with his suggestions, he praised the people who have ensured an effective transition into this new learning form.
“(Students and staff) are the pioneers that are leading us in the direction of confidently and safely serving a greater proportion of our staff and students in the future. I think it’s really important that we are prioritizing every opportunity for feedback and leadership from those pioneers, as they are taking on that particular responsibility and opportunity, blazing a safe path forward,” Sarver said.
Sarver and numerous trustees stressed the need for calm, detailed planning. They worry that the time spent in distance learning was not spent effectively to plan out a possible return to school.
“I think that after we decided that we were going to be delivering our instruction remotely, the urgency of planning efforts declined,” Weiner said.
Then, Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen brought forth the discussion of the attendance requirements. Board members agreed to give the superintendent the discretion to remove requirements later.
Collectively the board seems to be putting the needs of students and staff first. According to Leach, the decision to return to school will be discussed about three weeks prior to the start of the third quarter.
“Our bottom line is we wanted to do what’s best for students and get students to learn to the best of their capability while making sure everybody is safe,” Salvatore said.