Spring reopening season

November 1, 2020

After the President of the United States ended his daily COVID-19 briefings in late April and the U.S. saw an initial decline in cases, many parts of the country pushed to reopen. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) published fairly lenient guidelines for school reopening. The SUHSD looked towards reopening in the fall. 

In early June, many parents pressured the district to return to in-person learning. The June meeting included one hour of public comment, read aloud by district staff. Commenters were only referred to by first name. 

Nancy, a SUHSD parent, said, “I implore you to return to your normal classroom settings, some hybrid model might work, but my son really struggled to learn from online classrooms, there is so much value from working with classmates and teachers in person. It’s just not motivated to sit down at a computer to dry study when you’re a teenager, and all kinds of things distract you. Please vote to try to make it normal.”

Another parent named Sonia found not returning to school unacceptable, saying, “to think that you’re going to close the schools and subject our kids to remote learning is unconscionable.”

Everybody was looking for some way to return to normal, an idea the trustees yearned to follow.

At the next board meeting, district staff presented their return to school plan; the plan included creating stable cohorts of mostly distance learning and only showing up for an in-person flex period in the early phases of implementation.

The trustees rejected this proposal and asked that staff to develop more creative ideas. Many of the requests made were not possible under the current county frameworks.

Stable Cohort by Eddy Yeretnov

Trustee Carie Dubois said, “we need to make Scott Morrow [the county health officer] understand that mental health could be more damaging for kids in this age group than the risk of COVID-19. We must have to have more flexibility to make [in-person] school work.” She then went on to say, “we just can’t wait; I want them back in fall.”

Many trustees suggested lowering the number of classes offered to accommodate a hybrid model with stable cohorts, something Board President Alan Wiener believed was not under consideration. However, trustee Georgia Jack disagreed, saying, “if the answer is to get all the classes we currently offer, you get to come on campus one day a week. Is that what you want?” This disconnect between administrators added to the confusion of parents, students, and teachers.

Edith Salvatore, the Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA) president, said, “it was really demoralizing to hear the Board essentially say to the principals [and staff], ‘go back, work harder, and be more creative,’ ss if they hadn’t tried to come up with ways to get kids on campus.”

On the issue of following public safety guidelines, Salvatore also mentioned, “it’s problematic that we’re pinning our safety on what the County Office of Health is saying.” She believed that since the Office of Health was balancing health and the economy, its guidelines were not strict enough to protect teachers.

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