Young Observers: Back to School

Over 8,000 or about 60% of total enrolled students returned to in-person classes last Tuesday, Oct 13, as the Fullerton School District reopened its schools. Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the students’ return to school campuses, including new school set-up and a number of safety measures and restrictions, many are eager to know what the first week looks like.  It turns out that students do worry about COVID-19 but still prefer in-person classes and after their first week of school, 81% of the respondents indicated they were happy and their experience ended on a good note. Learn more about their views from the survey results below:

How do you feel after being able to attend in-person classes?

•Happy: 58

•Disappointed: 5

•Worried: 8

81% of the respondents are happy to be back in school mainly because of the opportunity to see their classmates and friends.  They also  find it easier to learn in school because there is less distraction.  There were a few disappointed students who failed to see their friends in school and a small number who worry about catching COVID-19 and wish to go back to distance learning.

Face Masks

•Wore throughout the day and was comfortable: 50

•Wore throughout the day and was not comfortable:16

•Not comfortable wearing mask and would like to return to distance learning: 5

All respondents wore masks throughout the school day with 70% of them feeling comfortable and 30% not at ease and a handful who did not like wearing masks and would rather return to distance learning. The top suggestion offered by students on the use of masks is to have a specific time when they can be given a few minutes’ break from wearing a mask, not just during the lunch period.

Were you able to interact with friends and classmates despite social distancing?

•Yes: 57

•No: 10

•Yes, without social distancing: 4

The opportunity to interact with friends and classmates is the biggest motivation for students to return to the campus. Most of them were able to engage in conversations, but there were a few who will need to keep trying as they adjust to the new norm.  There will also be those who are unable to resist breaking safety protocols and will need to be reminded.

Teachers Wearing Masks While Teaching

•Teachers wore masks in class and  we understood what was said: 60

•Teachers wore masks in class, it was hard to understand what was said: 10

•Teacher did not wear mask so we could understand what was being said: 1

Some students had a hard time understanding their teachers during lessons. A possible solution to this could be the use of a  microphone so that teachers do not have to yell and strain their voices nor remove their masks.

Risk of getting COVID-19 or unknowingly bringing it home to family

•I’m scared but I still want to go to school: 34

•I’m not scared and I will continue attending in-person class: 25

•I’m scared and would like to return to distance learning: 12

All respondents are aware of the risk but 50% still prefer in-person classes and 35% are not bothered by the virus at all. The remaining 15% would like to return to distance learning so as not to further expose themselves and their families to the risk of catching the virus.

While the threat from COVID-19 is still high, there is a reason to be grateful about this week’s school reopening.  Knowing that the students were happy about their experiences is an indication that they were able to cope with all the new policies and procedures regarding in-person classes in this time of pandemic, and the schools’ diligent preparations paid off. But, students have raised a few  concerns that may be worth considering. Masks would be easier to bear for long periods if students can have specific times when they can take them off and take a breather, not just during lunch break. A fourth-grader went further to suggest that they could have even just a five-minute break from the mask as a reward for good behavior. Some students have difficulty hearing their teachers speaking with their masks on.  If they are not yet using a microphone, they can be asked to use one just like some of the other teachers are doing.

After a brief experience with in-person classes, a few students want to switch back to distance learning because they feel like masks for long periods of time are suffocating and they realize they no longer want to take the risk of getting the virus or unknowingly bringing it home. Would the schools give them a chance to change their choice?  These concerns have been forwarded to the FSD School Board so they can review.

by Mateo, 7th grade

In-person classes started this week for students who chose to attend either the hybrid or five-day learning format. I picked the hybrid format and as a 7th grader, I finally attended my first week of on-campus experience in my new school. As expected in the COVID-19  era, there are many procedures put into place at school to keep everything safe and fun for students, teachers, and staff.

At the start of the day, we walk into school in a single-file line in which everyone is socially distanced, 6-feet apart. We then receive hand sanitizer as we enter campus and are free to go to our respective plazas (waiting areas in between passing periods). Masks are not provided but everyone is required to bring their own. Our temperature is taken in school as we walk through the line. In the plazas, social distancing is observed by teachers and staff, but it is hard to implement this efficiently when there are so many kids. I saw groups of people getting a bit too close to each other, and some even touching each other. However, it is kind of hard to talk to friends from a 6-feet distance, especially while wearing masks. It is very hard to hear each other, and sometimes you have to get a bit close in order to understand your friends. Once we get into the classroom, hand sanitizer is available right next to the front door for students to disinfect their hands. On average, my classes have around 12-13 students. Masks are required all day, except during lunch when we eat. Our teachers wear masks as well. It is not hard at all to hear them through the masks. Some of them even use microphones to make their voices a bit louder. I think teaching both in-person kids and the Zoom kids simultaneously is quite challenging, as almost all of my teachers encounter issues with Zoom. During lunch, we sit at an assigned marker in our respective plazas. We eat outside rather than inside our classrooms. There is even a bathroom protocol; only two people in the bathrooms at a time, and a supervisor monitors us. After school, even though each class is assigned an exit gate, social distancing is not very well-observed at the end of the day. Everyone just flies out looking for their parents.

To be honest, school is a bit strange, and it feels like a long day, but I enjoy being in school and it makes me happy. Other than the Zoom issues, there were no other unusual incidents. Wearing a mask was pretty annoying at first, but I have worn a mask for close to an hour straight before, so it is not a big deal. Sometimes a mask feels weird on you, but once you get used to wearing them for long periods of time, it is fine. If you haven’t gone to in-person school yet, hopefully this will give you an idea of what to expect. Note though that this is just the first week and things can change.

Rob loses everything after his father is caught embezzling millions from the city, then attempts suicide. Everyone treats Rob badly because they suspect he was going along with his father’s plan. Maegan is an overachiever who has lived in her older sister’s shadow for years. As a result, the pressure to do well gets to her, and she cheats on the SAT. When her sister comes home from college pregnant and broken-hearted, she’s not sure if they are the “perfect family” anymore. Both Rob’s and Maegan’s social reputations plummet after these events. They are labeled criminals, cheaters, and are outcasts at school.

Both of their personalities are so profound and complex, having many layers that makes it seem like the reader knows them inside and out. Their relationship is strong, and they learn to see one another as they are, not how they imagine each other to be.

This heartfelt novel contains so many hidden messages for readers to discover. It discusses how your own silence speaks great volumes, and how one mistake does not define us nor determine our future. It navigates through the comparisons of privilege and suffering, and emphasizes that we should never suffer alone. While doing so, it also exposes the flaws of society, questions our morals, and shows how different every one of us is.  To sum it up, Call It What You Want is a thought-provoking, bittersweet book, with a riveting storyline and relatable characters. It covers tough topics such as bullying and grief in a realistic way, and made me really think about different parts of society. Highly recommended.