October 13 and no sooner than Oct 5. These are Fullerton School District’s (FSD) and Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s (FJUHSD) reopening target dates respectively, unless otherwise directed by state and local authorities. Both districts have issued reopening guidelines to teachers, parents, and students and have posted them on their websites.
Last month, I conducted a survey among high school students on their preferred learning option (distance learning or in-person with all the stringent restrictions). Last week, FSD Superintendent Robert Pletka also shared the sign-up results for students in elementary through high school on the learning option they will attend once schools reopen. Luckily for students, they are free to pick the learning option they want.
What about the teachers? They will be teaching in-person classes as they also teach via Zoom to those attending from home. They may not have a choice but do they get a chance to voice their concern, at least? I am not sure so I decided to get their opinions through a survey. Below are the results.
Teachers’ views on in-person classes:
FJUHSD teachers: 60 respondents (No 53% – Yes 47%)
FSD teachers: 60 respondents (No 45% – Yes 55%)
The teachers are almost split on their preference and both survey results seem to mirror the trend for their respective students. Results of last month’s survey among 170 Fullerton high school students follows the FJUHSD teachers’ preference for distance-learning with 66% of students wanting to continue learning from home. On the other hand, recent sign-ups for FSD students’ learning options also align with FSD teachers’ preference with 63% wanting to attend on campus classes, which would mean either 5 days a week or hybrid (on-campus at least 2 days and from home at least 2 days. Wednesdays will alternate as on-campus and at-home learning.
Both FSD and FJUHSD teachers who are opposed to reopening have listed their concerns, which they hope the FSD and FJUHSD Board will consider. This list has been forwarded to the Board last week:
1. Flu Season
With the flu season coming up, it will be hard to distinguish the colds, coughs, or sneezes adding to the anxiety of teachers, parents, and students themselves. Some universities who started with in-person classes will transition to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break to minimize the risk of flu and COVID-19.
2. Teachers & Students Wearing Masks All Day
Students and teachers will struggle to wear masks all day. It will also be hard for them to be understood when speaking with a mask, especially for teachers who would also have to speak over Zoom to students learning from home.
3. Social Distancing
Keeping students distanced socially will be hard. They will not be able to learn and interact with other students comfortably. Collaborative work among students will not be allowed. With all the restrictions imposed in schools it will be a very unusual setting for students, so why bother to reopen?
4. Outside vs. Inside
With some schools having no windows or proper ventilation, classes would have to be held outside and when the rain and cold season sets in, students would have to go back to distance-learning anyway.
5. Long Periods Together in the Classroom
If it is not safe to be within 6 feet of another person, it is unsafe to spend all day in the classroom together. Teachers, especially in lower grades, spend the day helping students in small groups or one-on-one. A pandemic does not stop the students from asking help to tie shoelaces, opening water bottles, fixing iPad issues. Those needs will still be there.
6. Teaching In-Person & Virtually at the Same Time
The hybrid schedule will add more stress to the already stressful situation. This will not allow the teacher to give full attention to either group. It will be too difficult to monitor students online while at the same time attending to students in class.
7. Safety Protocol Monitoring
Though safety measures are in place, there are not enough staff to keep students moving in the right direction, to play the role of “mask” patrols, and to monitor the restrooms. No one can control some joker who fake coughs or sneezes.
8. COVID-19 Situation in Fullerton
School reopening shouldn’t just be based on the general OC health situation but on the specific situation of the City.
9. Why Disrupt the Current Distance Learning that Is Running Smoothly?
Teachers, students, and families have all just settled into a routine. Why change it to something that is actually another experiment. This will only disrupt the current flow and there has not been sufficient training yet for a hybrid format.
These concerns look reasonable and worthy to be considered. When the safety of students, teachers, and our community is at stake, it pays to listen to all sides. Teachers are our frontliners so they have firsthand knowledge in managing students. It wouldn’t hurt to listen to the inputs of our everyday heroes.