Are We Ready to go Back to School
Students and teachers have been longing to hear from schools about returning ever since remote learning first started. Learning from home began as a fun break after a stressful school year in 2020 but now that we’re reaching a year anniversary since school first closed, it has become an extremely difficult and unmotivating time for many.
Schools across the country are inputting guidelines to be able to have students return to school as safely and as timely as possible. Most states in America are reluctant and currently have no order put in place. Schools in Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, and Florida are ordered to open and have already agreed on a set date.
Iowa is offering hybrid in-person school five days out of the week for those who want it where students go to school a few days out of the week in order to prevent exposure. It is optional and totally up to the parent and student whether or not they decide to go. This was put in place on February 15. Governor Kim Reynolds wants all students to spend their school time in person. Texas has reopened to reduce the lack of funding due to enrollment and to help students who have fallen behind due to virtual learning. Arkansas is on the same page as Iowa and is planning to open around August to ensure that all safety measures will be imposed strictly. On the other hand, all schools in Florida opened in early spring of 2021 and introduced a Supplemental Intervention Plan to assist students who have fallen behind.
Schools in California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Delaware, and the District of Columbia have partially opened depending on the amount of cases in each particular county. These states are prioritizing proper funds and guidelines to slow the spread while giving students a suitable learning environment. As for Bellflower Unified School District, there aren't any schools that have returned, and no set date has been provided to do so. One can say that BUSD has somewhat fallen behind in creating guidelines and informing students, parents, and faculty on how they will return to school. Others would say that they are taking their time in making these decisions so as to not rush the reopening of schools. However, neighboring districts surrounding ours (such as Long Beach, Downey, Paramount, and ABC) have more information on their websites and a level of transparency when it comes to informing the school community.
As of right now, elementary schools in BUSD are planning to reopen this current school year. These elementary schools are keeping parents informed of what precautions they shall take when that does occur and have even come out with a video modeling what school would look like.
High school carries a more difficult task. Unlike elementary school where students only have one class with one teacher, high school students have up to 8 classes, each being with a different teacher. Most classrooms at Mayfair are barely big enough to fit 30-36 students and if 6-feet-apart guidelines are put in place, it is almost certain that only about half of the class will be able to attend school. Another concern with reopening high schools is the lack of cleanliness and the amount of disinfecting supplies being made available. When you enter school restrooms, they are usually extremely filthy and sometimes even lacking water and soap. Making sure that this doesn't happen when school is in session will be costly to implement for all the schools in the district.
Finally, just because schools do reopen, who says that parents will be comfortable with allowing their children to return to school. Many students have elders or at-risk family members in their homes that they can't risk exposing. If returning to school remains optional and not enough kids return, it will have been a huge amount of funding that will have basically gone to waste.
Governor Gavin Newsom imposed a deadline of kindergarten to second grade classrooms to return to school by April 1 in order to receive $2 billion for funding. This is a deal that can put multiple people at risk but because so many districts need the money, they can't pass up the offer.
Why are schools so eager to open if it poses a threat for not only teachers and students but their families and beyond? One can’t help to question whether or not this act is for the sake of students or to fill the pockets of districts. It is no secret that standardized testing and in-person school helps make a lot of money for the district and without that the need to provide multiple students with the proper materials to continue school virtually has been difficult. BUSD is known to act questionably in the way they handle their money which can be seen in disputes between Debra Duardo, a superintendent who manages many schools in Los Angeles County, and BUSD superintendent Tracy McSparren, over finances. These arguments are based on the fact that BUSD asked for the green light to be able to manage their own finances since July of 2019, which has now been revoked due to the fear of the way they are controlling their money. When LACOE (Los Angeles County Office of Education) asked to see what BUSD was doing with their money, they chose to decline. Although there are multiple discussions on how BUSD handles their money it is an interesting thought to decipher the real intentions of schools reopening.
Mayfair band director of 21 years, Mr. Tom Philips, is eager to return to school and be able to create a personal relationship with his students during band camp and the entirety of marching season. Although he is longing to return to school, he understands the difficulties of schools reopening, saying, “I only worry about the students themselves getting [COVID- 19].” He makes it evident that his main concern lies in the health of students and providing the proper protocols to keep students safe. When asked for his thoughts on how the district is handling the pandemic he said, “They are just being cautious but I don't know enough… it looks like money shouldn't be a problem; it's just people at the district level being able to make that happen.”
On the other hand, English teacher Ms. Katie Colln, who has been teaching at Mayfair since 2013, said that teaching virtually was difficult for her at first but then being able to include more activities during her instruction helped her gain comfortability. She emphasizes that she's eager to get back in the classroom but wants to be sure that when school does return, it is safe for everyone. In regards to how she feels about how the district is handling the reopening of schools, she responded, “I think that there could absolutely be more transparency in this situation and forethought…but I will say that this is such an unprecedented situation and as with anything science-based, changes in understanding are happening daily.”
Although many Mayfair students are anxious to return to school, everyone can agree that health and safety comes first.