Local public schools, with those across the state and nation, are in a holding pattern awaiting further notice on what school will look like in fall 2020, as the U.S. with the rest of the world considers life moving forward amid the global pandemic.
Currently, schools are considering three scenarios: all online, in person but with extreme safety measures and social distancing, and the hybrid approach, with some in person and some online education to limit contact overall.
Brett O’Connor, principal at Claremont High School, said that there is still no definitive answer on what approach the Claremont Unified School District is going to take for the fall semester.
“Right now there are more questions than answers,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think anyone in the Claremont Unified School District can provide much information yet. Maybe in two or three weeks.”
Claremont High School transitioned to online class on March 18 after officially closing on March 13. This not only abruptly stripped student’s social interactions on campus away, but it left seniors without closure for their final year.
Kelly Yeung, a senior at Claremont High School who will be a freshman at the University of La Verne in fall, said that as of right now the high school is planning on having graduation on July 30, if health department mandates have eased by then.
“The district and school are talking about even possibly having multiple graduations with several groups of students,” Yeung said. “We haven’t received any information on the exact date of when Claremont will open up again. There are rumors going around that Claremont might start early this year to make up for the missing work this past year.”
Audrey Sinsky, freshman at Claremont High School, said that there is a lot of uncertainty with what is going to happen as she enters her sophomore year in Fall of 2020. She said that there has been talk of a hybrid approach being the most likely outcome of decision making.
“It’s been kind of a crazy transition,” Sinsky said. “I would like to be back at school, but not at the expense of anyone’s safety.”
Elementary schools could be facing the same, if not more, restrictions and precautions come the fall semester, solely due to the fact that elementary school children tend to share and physically interact more often than any other age group, such as the typical hugging or hand-holding that children tend to act upon.
Jessica Marchant, teacher at Sycamore Elementary School in Claremont, said that her school is planning to start on their original start date, Sept. 2, because school calendars are something that the teachers union have to negotiate at the beginning of the year.
“I have a feeling we wouldn’t be making decisions on a month by month basis,” Marchant said. “It’s hard to know, but I think we would do more towards longer term planning rather than just seeing how it goes and making decisions on the spot.”
Marchant also said that in the event students do return in class, whether it is full-time in person or some combination of a hybrid, extreme sanitary precautions would be put into place.
“I know that we would definitely all be wearing masks. Probably not playing on playground equipment during recess, not sharing materials, which is really hard for elementary students, it’s just natural for them,” Marchant said. “Normally they’re sitting at tables facing each other so it might have to look different where students are all facing one direction with specific distance between them. Hard to imagine.”
Marchant added that she hopes the school can resume as soon as they can knowing that there is a minimal risk for students and teachers. She said whether it’s kindergarten or college, being in close contact in conversation with peers can never be replaced.
“I do hope once we are able to resume normal school there is going to be much greater appreciation for the social aspect of school and the human contact,” she said. “That’s the value of education. It’s so much more beyond just learning content, so much of what we learn is in community and social. Zoom is just not a replacement.”
Noelle Blumel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.