Students and teachers conflicted over prospect of transitioning into in-person learning

October 25, 2020 — by Andrew Li and Shreya Rallabandi
IMG_2741

Juniors walk by the t-shirt pickup table as they leave the Falcon Fest on Aug. 5.

The district has transitioned to Phase 2A of its four-phased plan for reopening that district superintendent Dr. Michael Grove outlined in July.

The plan will incrementally return students back to campus “as conditions permit.”

The state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” released on Aug. 28, outlines a four-tiered classification of counties based on their daily new case rate and test positivity rate and provides counties with guidelines for reopening. As of Oct. 12, Santa Clara County is in the orange, or moderate, risk tier, providing further confidence in the safety of a possible hybrid return to campus.   

Phase 2 is split into two parts: 2A and 2B. In phase 2A, the school is bringing back small, stable cohorts on campus, each with 14-15 students and one to two supervisors, amounting to a total of around 130 students and 10 teachers on campus. 

The district will continue to monitor Santa Clara County’s conditions and will move to phase 2B once they improve.

In phase 2B, the school will continue to bring the cohorts on campus and increase their size. A number of teachers, including digital arts and MAP teacher Alex Hemmerich and math teacher Kelly Frangieh, have expressed interest in returning to campus to participate in this phase.

Though all students and staff can volunteer to be in a cohort, students who are disabled, learning English or require resources provided by the school have priority for participating in Phase 2. 

Phase 3, a hybrid learning model, will not commence until January at the earliest, though its implementation is uncertain and it holds controversy.

The district will enforce 11 Categories of Preparation and Protocols, a district-made list of guidelines that summarizes over 140 recommendations from agencies such as the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. 

Among the guidelines: Everybody on campus will be required to wear a mask at all times, and classrooms will be set up to implement social distancing. Staff must also complete a daily health survey. 

The administration did not answer questions about plans for conducting lunch and actions the school will take if a student on campus tests positive for the coronavirus in time for this publication.  

Despite all the health and safety precautions, both students and teachers have conflicting views on the school’s plan.

Google Form surveys from Week 4 of remote learning asked both students and parents to rank their comfort levels with returning to in-person learning in small cohorts from 1 to 5, with 1 being not comfortable at all and 5 being very comfortable. Of the 608 student responses, just under 50 percent ranked themselves a 3 or below, and of the 906 parent responses, around 45 percent ranked themselves as a 3 or below.

Sophomore Noor Khan is one of those who is uncomfortable with the prospects of this transition and opposes the shift, saying that there is much the school has to take into account when they allow students back onto campus. 

She mentioned that when she picked up her class t-shirt from the textbook room, students were using the same pencil to sign their names on a clipboard, which made Khan uneasy. 

“As much as I want to go back to school — I’d really like to see people again — I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Senior Abhishek Patil, however, is willing to return to campus for Phase 2 and is confident he will remain healthy. 

“I just feel like if I can wear a mask and keep my distance, I should be fine,” Patil said. “It’s my senior year so I really want to go back to school.”

Many teachers have expressed concerns surrounding hybrid learning. Over 55 percent of 147 teachers in the district ranked themselves as “not comfortable” with returning to school in small cohorts for in-person learning, according to a newsletter Grove sent to the district’s community. Some of their concerns pertain to the school’s ability — or lack thereof — to mandate health and safety policies such as social distancing and mask-wearing on campus. 

Because there are so many factors the school “cannot realistically control,” Athletics Trainer and health teacher Liz Alves said, she is not confident that a return to campus will be safe.

While Alves said that she is healthy, she is concerned about many other teachers who are at risk. In addition, she said many teachers are worried about their families and access to childcare. 

“If we go back to in-person, but our children’s schools have not, what do we do?” Alves said. “It’s a lot easier to keep a child entertained in their playroom while you work than to keep a child entertained in a classroom environment where they will want to wander or touch everything.”

Aside from safety and childcare, teachers have a multitude of other concerns, including quarantining, substitute teaching, paid sick days, prospects of switching back to remote learning and costs of medical care.

“I think the school will try their best to promote safe behaviors, but I think it is very difficult to ensure safe behaviors,” Alves said.

 

Print version:

The district has transitioned to Phase 2A of its four-phased plan for reopening that district superintendent Dr. Michael Grove outlined in July.

The plan will incrementally return students back to campus “as conditions permit.”

The state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” released on Aug. 28, outlines a four-tiered classification of counties based on their daily new case rate and test positivity rate and provides counties with guidelines for reopening. As of Oct. 12, Santa Clara County is in the orange, or moderate, risk tier, providing further confidence in the safety of a possible hybrid return to campus.   

Phase 2 is split into two parts: 2A and 2B. In phase 2A, the school is bringing back small, stable cohorts on campus, each with 14-15 students and one to two supervisors, amounting to a total of around 130 students and 10 teachers on campus. 

The district will continue to monitor Santa Clara County’s conditions and will move to phase 2B once they improve.

In phase 2B, the school will continue to bring the cohorts on campus and increase their size. A number of teachers, including digital arts and MAP teacher Alex Hemmerich and math teacher Kelly Frangieh, have expressed interest in returning to campus to participate in this phase.

Though all students and staff can volunteer to be in a cohort, students who are disabled, learning English or require resources provided by the school have priority for participating in Phase 2. 

Phase 3, a hybrid learning model, will not commence until January at the earliest, though its implementation is uncertain and it holds controversy.

The district will enforce 11 Categories of Preparation and Protocols, a district-made list of guidelines that summarizes over 140 recommendations from agencies such as the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. 

Among the guidelines: Everybody on campus will be required to wear a mask at all times, and classrooms will be set up to implement social distancing. Staff must also complete a daily health survey. 

The administration did not answer questions about plans for conducting lunch and actions the school will take if a student on campus tests positive for the coronavirus in time for this publication.  

Despite all the health and safety precautions, both students and teachers have conflicting views on the school’s plan.

Google Form surveys from Week 4 of remote learning asked both students and parents to rank their comfort levels with returning to in-person learning in small cohorts from 1 to 5, with 1 being not comfortable at all and 5 being very comfortable. Of the 608 student responses, just under 50 percent ranked themselves a 3 or below, and of the 906 parent responses, around 45 percent ranked themselves as a 3 or below.

Sophomore Noor Khan is one of those who is uncomfortable with the prospects of this transition and opposes the shift, saying that there is much the school has to take into account when they allow students back onto campus. 

She mentioned that when she picked up her class t-shirt from the textbook room, students were using the same pencil to sign their names on a clipboard, which made Khan uneasy. 

“As much as I want to go back to school — I’d really like to see people again — I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Senior Abhishek Patil, however, is willing to return to campus for Phase 2 and is confident he will remain healthy. 

“I just feel like if I can wear a mask and keep my distance, I should be fine,” Patil said. “It’s my senior year so I really want to go back to school.”

Many teachers have expressed concerns surrounding hybrid learning. Over 55 percent of 147 teachers in the district ranked themselves as “not comfortable” with returning to school in small cohorts for in-person learning, according to a newsletter Grove sent to the district’s community. Some of their concerns pertain to the school’s ability — or lack thereof — to mandate health and safety policies such as social distancing and mask-wearing on campus. 

Because there are so many factors the school “cannot realistically control,” Athletics Trainer and health teacher Liz Alves said, she is not confident that a return to campus will be safe.

While Alves said that she is healthy, she is concerned about many other teachers who are at risk. In addition, she said many teachers are worried about their families and access to childcare. 

“If we go back to in-person, but our children’s schools have not, what do we do?” Alves said. “It’s a lot easier to keep a child entertained in their playroom while you work than to keep a child entertained in a classroom environment where they will want to wander or touch everything.”

Aside from safety and childcare, teachers have a multitude of other concerns, including quarantining, substitute teaching, paid sick days, prospects of switching back to remote learning and costs of medical care.

“I think the school will try their best to promote safe behaviors, but I think it is very difficult to ensure safe behaviors,” Alves said.