PHOTO: Woodland Christian School reopened on Oct. 13 with lines of students made their way down the hallways for the first time in six months.
By Lewis Herring-Tillman,
Thousands of students in the Davis Joint Unified School District stare at Zoom for hours during distance learning. Now the district is solidifying their plans for on-campus teaching and a hybrid learning system is on the horizon.
While a reopening is exciting for some students, it spurs worry the district could be putting students in danger by moving too fast.
“Any kind of discomfort or anxiety here usually comes from a lack of information,” said Laura Juanitas, DJUSD Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services. “Every person has their own values; some of that I don’t have control over, but I can create the structures to provide as safe a campus as possible.”
Beginning on Oct. 12 special education assessments mandated by the state were taking place in person on four main campuses in Davis. The district will begin physical therapy, occupational therapy and special work with blind and deaf students for whom the ability to learn at home has been impaired.
According to Juanitas, the people who have the highest priority for in person learning are those who have been most disadvantaged online.
“This is especially those who require high levels of special education, brand new English learners and even those who have chronic disengagement,” Juanitas said.
Every Monday Juanitas meets with Mary Ann Limbos, Yolo County’s Interim Deputy Public Health Officer, to coordinate the reopening effort. Limbos has her own concerns about distance learning.
“There are a lot of negative consequences of having students completely in distance learning like decreased academic achievement, mental health consequences like depression and stress and disconnection,” Limbos said.
While staff and administration are worried about the negative effects of full distance learning, DHS junior Ian Lovitt and sophomore Melody Tun have an opposing concern: they are worried the hybrid model is too soon.
“I don’t think it’s realistic until a vaccine,” Lovitt said.
“I would want everything to be super sanitary and distance everything,” Tun said.
“There’s a whole lot of complexity in play around health and safety,” Deputy Superintendent Matt Best said. “Districts around the country are trying different models [but] there is very little research on the efficacy of those models.”
The district is planning on enforcing strict cleaning and distancing guidelines when schools move to a hybrid model. However, the specific date for beginning hybrid learning is unknown.
Limbos hopes that the number of cases in Yolo County doesn’t spike.
“A lot can happen between now and November [… but] I would like to believe that our community will continue to take personal responsibility,” Limbos said.
“It all depends […] if Davis is like other college towns across the country; we could see an uptick, so we’re not rushing like other districts might be,” Juanitas said.
District members remain sure, however, that the quarter block schedule will continue for the rest of year. “The quarter block system allows us to keep points of contact contained,” said Troy Allen, the Director of Secondary Education and Leadership.
Some private and Christian schools in Yolo and Solano county are reopening or have already reopened.
Rusty Gaudard is a history teacher at Vacaville Christian High School. His classroom is heavily sanitized and desks are arranged in a checkerboard pattern. He believes his school shouldn’t have opened until a vaccine was available.
“We just don’t have all the answers, and so we want to be smart and curb the spread of this, even if it means temporarily ending in person instruction,” Gaudard said.
At another private Christian school in Woodland, senior Ellieza Smith was preparing to return to school in mid-October.
“I would really rather have us open a little later because we just got the OK. […] Some of the kids in my class aren’t taking all the precautions I’d like them to,” Smith said.