*Disclaimer: the opinions from the author don’t necessarily reflect the beliefs of CCA Pulse Magazine as a whole*
Following the decision made by the SDUHSD Board of Trustees earlier this month, many schools in our district have had to shift their distance learning plans in order to accommodate teaching students in real life. The decision, which you can read about in Isabella Kwon’s article titled, “A Brief Look at the Classroom,” dictates that starting in November, schools affiliated with the San Dieguito Union High School District, will start to present students with the opportunity to slowly go back to school. For the students who do decide to take part in this new schedule, they would start to go back for only one day a week, then two, then three, and so on, up until the second quarter ends.
Needless to say, this was the start of chaos. Not only did many teachers, parents, and students not agree with the decision, it seemed as though this new plan of being in person seemed rash and irresponsible. Similar to the infamous changing of pass/fail grades to real grades from the previous semester, it seemed as though the choice was made on the terms of people pleasing instead of for the benefit of the students and the teachers. And when one controversial thing happens after another, it’s fair to assume that more than just a few people will be upset.
Petitions, emails, and many many comments were sent to the district superintendent and the board of trustees responsible for making the decisions that could affect our lives in more ways than we know. I was lucky enough to attend one of the first, and hopefully only, protests against the decision to reopen schools: the caravan rallies. On October 21st at 4:30, parents, teachers, and students alike were invited to either Torrey Pines High School or La Costa Canyon High School to drive through San Diego, ending at the District Offices in Encinitas. While me and my colleague, fellow staff writer, Aimee Han, were unable to attend the full ride, we were able to see the commotion before they departed.
It was shocking to see that almost 15-20 cars showed up, all armed with signs saying slogans like, “handwashing is not a plan,” or “think about the teachers,” ready to bring down any district board member in their sights (not literally). While the original plan was to leave at 4:30, those who wanted to attend were prompted to arrive at 4:00, and while me and Aimee walked down to the parking lot where the rally would take off, we could see attendees marking up the windows of their cars with signs or markers.
When asked about her initial reaction to the news, one woman, a parent, said that she was “disgusted and disappointed,” that the board decided it was necessary to switch up what had been working for the past 3 months. She felt that it was unfair to many families and teachers that what had been originally promised as two full quarters online had turned into a rushed decision to get kids back on campus, all when San Diego hadn’t even been verified as off the Covid watchlist*. A teacher from the district had a similar reaction: “Disappointed is all I can really say.”
While many were clearly upset with the decisions made by the board on October 14th, there are also many on the other side as well. Although not completely supporting the plan that the district board came up with for our second quarter, many agree that the difficulties of learning are only exacerbated by being online. Not only that but the pacing of many classes, especially at Canyon Crest and San Dieguito Academy, both of which support the 4×4 schedule, get messed up. With these things in mind, the question arises as to how schools are able to prepare their students when they’re limited to whatever electronic devices they may possess. Additionally, students who struggle socially have become limited to seeing people through blown up initials or pixelated profile pictures. Therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to cultivate a plan that benefits both sides of the spectrum: those who think it unnecessary to go back and those who don’t.
The thing we all weren’t expecting was the compromise (or rather, the executive decision) to reopen schools without the consent of teachers and students. While parents do matter in the scheme of board meetings and district trustees, above all, teachers and students should be consulted when making decisions that could affect their safety. “It just doesn’t make sense how the plan will work, the student anyway will be watching their teacher through a screen, and lunch and the bell schedule will be just as confusing. It’s different for every school too! All schools pace differently across the district, I just don’t know how it’ll work,” a parent states.
So while Aimee and I stood on the edges of the Torrey Pines parking lot, watching the painted cars go by, aggressively honking their horns as they entered the intersection to leave campus, all that we were really left to think about is how to prepare for our “first day of school,” and, if we’ll even make it out “alive”.
*As of Tuesday, October 20th, San Diego is off the Covid watchlist. The board decision was made October 14th.