This article discusses the reopening of schools in FUSD and how it may look for the future
Schools reopening sounds like a dream. Being able to see your friends in person, getting more resources and materials, being in a proper learning environment, all of the things we would get back. As the year continues, there are both children and parents who want to return to in-person learning. However, vaccines are still not available for children and COVID-19 is still spreading, so in-person school might operate differently compared to previous years.
FUSD has been holding presentations and are discussing plans on how school reopening would look like for the future months and school years. In a recent presentation created by FUDTA, the educators covered the different topics of how schools reopening would look and what students and parents can expect. FUDTA President Victoria Birbeck-Herrera starts off with explaining the first point that all students will have the ability to stay in Distance Learning for the 2020/2021 school year if they please.
“For us as educators, one of our three focuses is that Fremont students deserve safe and healthy learning environments. Up until now, there has been little questions about where the safest and healthiest place was [for kids]. But even as things progress, we are committed to offering distance learning for the rest of the year. If you choose to do that as a family, you have that guarantee of that physical safety,” she states.
This is a helpful point to those students who prefer online learning, not just for safety, but also for other benefits such as working better alone in a quiet space.
Another important factor in deciding whether or not schools will be able to open soon is minimizing contact as well and how cohorts will be established. Bargaining Chair Thomas Birbeck explained that “the idea of cohorts is to minimize contact. You create small groups of students who are inside at any given time, and that’s what the cohorts are designed for. It reduces the amount of risks, by minimizing exposure to large groups and cohorts are closed, so the same group of students, you don’t mix those across.” He went on to discuss how the district and FUDTA bargaining team would look at a cohort model to help them figure out this plan. The presentation slides stated that one cohort in a class would be 10-12 students to keep it small.
Wearing masks and washing hands is a clear point of safety that FUDTA touches on as well.
“In addition to the masks, we are looking at creating extensive opportunities for hand-washing and sanitizing. We know every room doesn’t have a sink with hot water, the district has agreed that they are going to provide hand-sanitizer in every classroom and every common area” Birbeck elaborates.
However, while FUSD has these guidelines and plans decided, there are certain aspects they are still in discussion about or in progress plans. One of the items was temperature checks. The FUSD Safety Plan had proposed the idea of contactless thermometers that may be used daily for students. As of now, FUDTA expressed their plan of each unit or cohort member being provided with a no-touch thermometer to check the students. Birbeck-Herrera explained as to why they proposed this plan.
“Our educators, if we are with students in person, we’re saying, give me a no-touch thermometer. I’m going to take the temperature for those kids before I get them into my classroom. I want to take it out of the hands [of parents] who, in the morning, are always in a rush, and I know they didn’t have time to take their kids’ temperature. School onsite, it is really now shifting the responsibility for safety, from the time that your kids are on school campus, we are going to support families wherever they are.”
As schools will be reopening at some point, hearing the students’ opinions on the topic could be a helpful resource. Sophomore Deeta Ganapathy (10) states that “I think that it depends, more than anyone, what parents think [about schools reopening]. It’s evident we all haven’t had the vaccine yet, and I love talking to people and being around people, but even as someone like that, our safety is so much more important.”
Student Nandini Sharma (12) describes what she feels from the perspective of a senior. “As a senior, I don’t see the point in [in-person school]. I feel that I wasted an entire year sitting at home, and I don’t know, even if it does open, if we will be able to have good activities or events that we would usually have … without the vaccination, I really don’t think it’s safe,” she states.
While it may not be fully ready or established, FUDTA and FUSD is making steady progress on implementing in-person school as an upcoming option for this year and the future. With more input and feedback, in-person school might not be a far-fetched dream as it was before.