EVHS Students Hesitantly Await In-Person Learning

Students and teachers at EVHS respond to the growing progress of California’s school reopenings.

EVHS+Student+Body+Leadership+taking+a+photo+as+a+cohort.+According+to+ESUHSD+and+EVHS%2C+cohorts+will+have+a+maximum+of+15+students+indoors+and+30+outdoors.

Katherine Dimalanta

EVHS Student Body Leadership taking a photo as a cohort. According to ESUHSD and EVHS, cohorts will have a maximum of 15 students indoors and 30 outdoors.

Jason Lin

On March 23, Santa Clara County announced that it was moving into the Orange Tier, signaling for more businesses reopening and double indoor capacities across the city. However, as thousands of people begin moving back into a modified normal-life, UK and African coronavirus variants have increased in prevalence. The UK variant, B.117, jumped from 1 to 15 cases in a little under a month, increasing further during the last week of March to 97 cases. 

Despite concerns, many school districts are making an adamant effort to begin Phase 3 reopenings by mid-April. Bolstered by Governor Gavin Newsom’s 6.6 billion dollars reopening plan, schools across California are reopening as early as April 1st. East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) and Evergreen Valley High School (EVHS) have set their sights to reopen with the Phase 3 cohort on April 19. 

Under Phase 3 cohort, schools will be allowed to reopen with indoor cohorts of up to 15 people, and outdoor cohorts of up to 30 people. Students will be distributed 6 feet apart to ensure proper social distancing. Daily sanitization of school property will be done to ensure safety. Furthermore, essential protection materials such as masks, hand sanitizers, and ventilators will be provided to schools and students. 

ESUHSD Superintendent Chris Funk expressed his excitement about school cohorts and vaccinations.

“When vaccines became widely accessible, that was a game-changer. I am now ready to say let’s bring our teachers back and students back who want to be back,” says Chris Funk. 

Both students and teachers alike also feel that cohorts are a good first step to moving back into a more “normal” school year. 

“I think cohorts are a good idea, cause it limits your exposure to other people. And reopenings, we should start reopening when kids my age can get vaccines,” said Sanjana Sathishkumar, a Sophomore at EVHS. “I think once it is allowed when kids our age can get their vaccine, then we should consider reopening.”

“I think it is good for the kids who need to come back and need that extra time or space to be with other people. Cause I think it’s been hard on everybody, emotionally,” said Mrs. Jacob, an Art teacher at EVHS, “It’s kind of draining being in that same environment every day and not getting to see your friends or your regular schedule that you’re used to. So I think that a little bit of real-life would be nice for everybody.”

A recent poll by ESUHSD found that around 40% of students in the district want to go back to school in person. Despite not being the majority, many students agree that learning in person is important and has its perks. 

“Because there are people around you and a teacher [during in person-learning], you have to be steady and do your work. But with Online [distance learning] you are held less accountable because you can switch to different tasks,” said Sanjana Sathishkumar. “There are ways to pay attention properly but it’s just not the same as when you’re in person.”

However, some students do express sentiments about the benefits of staying at home and distance learning. 

“One thing about distance learning that I really enjoyed was seeing how we were able to adapt much faster than I expected, and to me, some of those adaptations to our education at EV have some advantages that I enjoy. And it increased accessibility in some cases.” said Sanjana Taware, a sophomore at EVHS, “ I know over the summer, I was able to do a couple of courses that I know I might not have been able to do had it been in person. I just think that flexibility is nice with distance learning, of course, that often depends on your Internet connection”

For teachers like Mrs. Jacob, a current art teacher at EVHS, many miss the human interactions which allow them to engage their students in learning. Many teachers believe that distance learning has negatively affected the quality of education that students received this school year and are eager to return to in-person learning. 

“I definitely prefer in-person learning. Especially for the art, I feel it is a hard class to do online. I think we learn so much more from each other. In art, you thrive off of each other’s creative energy. It pushes you to do something a little harder and out of your comfort zone.” said Mrs. Jacob, “I think we learn when we build on skills when we are around people who are better than us. And we can learn from each other”

Other teachers like Mrs. Layton believe that staying on distance learning is essential for student safety. They advocate that students should wait until vaccinations become more available before expanding into cohorts.

“I prefer distance learning so that everyone can remain safe. Some students will not have the opportunity to be vaccinated.” said Mrs. Layton, EVHS’s Freshman P.E teacher, “I want them to feel comfortable when they come back to school. Knowing that they are safe at home without the risk of taking the Covid-19 virus home to their family members may be the best situation until those under 16 years old can be vaccinated.”

According to Superintendent Funk, vaccinations will play a key role in facilitating the transition from distance to in-person learning. As of April 1, Santa Clara has successfully administered 576,456 first-dose vaccines and has fully vaccinated 366,186 people. For the county of 2 million people, roughly 16% of the population has already been fully vaccinated. 

At the start of March, Governor Newsom promised to set aside 10% of the California vaccine supply for education faculty, which allowed a large majority of teachers across California to get vaccinated. At EVHS, around 92.3% of teachers have received their first vaccination, 30.8% have been fully vaccinated. As vaccination restrictions ease up and federal distribution of vaccinations continues to rise, many are optimistic about returning to school.

For many teachers like Mrs. Layton, getting a vaccine was a great relief and provided them with the reassurance necessary to accept in-person learning.

“Yes, I do feel a little bit safer. I hope schools will reopen. My own son has been in school since October…,” said Mrs. Layton “I have several teacher friends who have returned to school already in other districts. So I am hopeful we can get back to campus.”

Student vaccinations have not been stagnant during this time either. In the ESUHSD poll, 8.3% of EVHS students, primarily seniors, have already received their first vaccines. Furthermore, 60.4% of EVHS students stated that they plan to vaccinate once it becomes available. Only 8.3% of EVHS students definitively said they are not going to get vaccinated for the coronavirus. 

“I think we should wait till kids are allowed to get vaccinated. High schoolers aren’t really known for their top-notch hygiene. So I would wait and not do it [reopen] yet,” said Sanjana Satishkumar. 

However, the situation behind vaccinations remains tense. Following vaccine shortages, Santa Clara has restricted most vaccinations to second doses and those at high risk of infection. However, those who want to get vaccinated may be able to receive extra doses of coronavirus vaccines at select vaccination clinics. 

With President Joe Biden’s promise to enable full access to vaccinations by May, students may begin to receive vaccinations very soon. Students ages 16 and up may receive their vaccines as early as April 15. As the procession toward normalcy and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, masks and social distancing may no longer be a part of school learning. However, some advancements, such as digital education software, may become incorporated for schools in the following years to come.

“I believe that a lot of our students have exhibited their creativity and demonstrated their learning in different forms that we never would have seen if we were in-person,” explains Chris Funk. “Hopefully we can take the best practices of distance learning and the positive things that have happened during the pandemic and incorporate them in education as we move forward.”