Teachers provide input on the reopening process

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Parsa Kazerani

Robert Tsuchyamia reviews a homework problem regarding the law of cosines in his classroom.

Due to the lack of state mandates, guidance, and communication, California school districts face the realities of approaching the task of appropriately returning their students to school safely and effectively.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by September. 741,000 children had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. Of those 741,000 children, approximately 10% of them are students from California. This raised safety concerns for the California’s Teachers Association (CTA) in early September, which prompted them to address the matter by writing a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom regarding state guidance for schools.

“If we want to be healthy and safe, we need our teachers coming into classrooms to be COVID-free,” said Gayle Young, the president of the Napa Valley Educators Association (NVEA). “But the concern from my members is what about the students? Our country does not test children.”

As COVID-19 cases were decreasing in Napa Valley, Young announced that  they will be physically reopening under a hybrid system. While attempting to keep students and staff safe while preserving a school environment, a hybrid system was implemented, which consisted of in-person and the continuation of distance learning alongside staggered cohorts.

Carlmont has yet to announce a plan for reopening, but teachers stress their concern about returning to school before a vaccine is developed.

“I definitely would feel better if I had a classroom full of students that did have the vaccine. I don’t want to be the first one in line to get the vaccine; I know all the safety protocols are there, but there’s still a chance of getting it,” said Robert Tsuchiyama, the algebra 2 trig and pre-calculus honors teacher.

According to the Pew Research Center, 49% of U.S. adults claim they definitely or probably will not get the vaccine when it first comes out. As a result, schools are going to be stuck in their current position if people refuse to take the vaccine. Even when maintaining social distancing, students can always be packed within a confined area during passing periods and perpetuate the spread of the disease. Thus, districts are encouraged by teachers to seek new avenues to prevent schools from being the new hotspot of COVID-19. 

“You see what’s happened to the schools that have opened up, and it doesn’t seem like a safe thing. We have to learn what’s good and bad from the other schools,” Tsuchiyama said. “Before we open up schools, COVID-19 really has to be contained through something.”

Although Tsuchiyama is inconclusive as to what the best strategy is to tackle reopening, he brings up the point of examining other districts’ success. The Lodi Unified School District (LUSD) has set a precedent of the effects of lacking testing, tracing, and social distancing, with more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19 since reopening.

Other school districts are evaluating the LUSD’s failures. They have started to emphasize the importance of social distancing within their plans. This is most notable with the new plan to make classes outside and enforce mask-wearing to mitigate the spread.

As of Nov. 2, California continues to provide lax regulations on schooling, and Newsom has yet to respond to the CTA’s demands regarding reopening safety. The current guidelines of schools’ reopening is through Newsom’s executive order on the color-coded zones brought forth by California’s Government in August. Counties in the “dark-purple” region cannot open their high schools and teach via distance learning.

“I’m sure Carlmont and the SUHSD district as a whole are ready for any obstacles facing the reopening process,” said Alyssa Lu, the chemistry and human biology teacher. “I’m confident that the SUHSD district board will be able to handle this situation properly.”

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