This spring when the COVID-19 virus hit, campuses shut down, education moved online, and schools across the country shifted into triage mode. Teachers scrambled to deliver instruction using unfamiliar platforms and many students fell behind. Because it was impossible for schools to reach everyone in an equitable manner, Fullerton allowed struggling students to earn a pass.
Following State mandates, Orange Country’s public schools, including those in Fullerton, have remained in distance-learning-only mode this fall. But grades have returned to Fullerton, and the district is looking to support teachers in delivering quality instruction.
The Observer reached out to Angie Cencak, President of the Fullerton Secondary Teachers Association, to discuss that support, and the prospects for school return to in-person learning later this fall.
Residents may have noticed teachers’ vehicles have returned to school parking lots on weekdays, and sometimes into the evenings during Back to School week. Cencak said that this use of campuses is a result of the Memo of Understanding between the high school district and the Teachers Association’s negotiating team that was ratified on July 29. The agreement has given teachers an option during online instruction this fall; they can teach in the classroom where each teacher has been given a camera to do live-streaming, and/or they can teach from home. Cencak reported that some teachers are taking advantage of the opportunity to go to campus multiple days a week and are finding teaching from school to be easier.
This reporter has noticed an improvement in the quality of instruction in the schools, and asked Cencak about the support given to the high school teachers as they have transitioned to teaching online.
“Each campus has an IT classified staff member working so they can troubleshoot any issues with information technology, any questions that teachers might have related to Zoom or Google classroom,” Cencak said. “Every student is given a Chromebook and every school site has a technology lead teacher on our campus, so we [teachers] always have an immediate access to somebody at our school site that can help us navigate any technology issues.”
“We also have a Wednesday professional development day where teachers have a professional development period that’s about an hour, on the campuses,” Cencak said. ”During that time we have an opportunity to meet in our group, our department, working on best practices. I think what’s helpful is teachers having the opportunity to meet together.”
Cencak and others have worked to establish safety protocols in accordance with mandates and recommendations from the Orange County Department of Health and the California Department of Public Health. These include:
•Prescreening temperatures for those coming on campus
•Ensuring that everyone wear a mask
•Limiting the students’ occupying a space at any given time to a number that allows for the recommended 6 feet of distance
•Ensuring an adequate supply of personal protective equipment
•Cleaning and sanitizing classrooms regularly
•Providing adequate ventilation of classrooms and common spaces.
Keeping track of risks for Coronavirus along with their many other daily duties will be difficult for teachers, according to Cencak. However, she believes that they will rise to the challenge.
If COVID trends continue, Orange County will stay off the watchlist. In the meantime, students will be looking to teachers to provide quality online instruction, and teachers will be using the resources Cencak mentioned as they try to do just that.
The State now says local schools are on track to reopen to students on Tuesday, Sept. 22, according to County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau.