Governing Board’s Decision for 2020-2021 School Year Met with Mixed Reactions

By Stella Heo, Shrida Pandey, and Aisha Mohanty, Online Editor-in-Chief, Online News Editor, and Staff Writer

// After watching the total number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States skyrocket in June and continue to rise as the upcoming school year approaches, students, parents and teachers eagerly waited for the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Governing Board to decide how school will resume. 

  During the Board meeting on Tuesday, July 14, the Board unanimously voted to begin the 2020-2021 school year with distance learning. Some Acalanes High School community members have mixed reactions to this decision. 

   The district chose the distance learning method over both the blended learning method, meaning the district would split students into two groups that would alternate between in-person and distance learning, and the open campus method. This decision may be modified in response to future developments, as the Board plans to reassess the situation on Sept. 2 to determine if Acalanes could move to blended learning. 

   Most Acalanes community members agree that the Board made the right choice. 

   “Given the circumstances and climate of our country and more locally our state and county, the Board is making the correct decision for the safety of our students. Yes, it is sucky that we won’t get to go and see our friends and enroll in our classes in-person, but what other choice do we really have given the severity of the situation?” rising junior Eli Pockell-Wilson said.

   However, others are wary of the Board’s decision. 

   “I wish they would have left open the idea of reevaluating in a month as opposed to committing to 100 percent distance learning now and not re-assessing until a month into the school year. The conditions in the county are fluid,” rising senior Carly Arends’ mother Melissa Arends said.

   While reflecting on last spring’s distancing learning experience, many parents fear the possible decline in the quality of their students’ education in an at-home environment. 

   “While the effort might be higher, all the outcomes will be worse. I think students will be exposed to most of the same material but master far less of it. This will create deficits in foundational classes like mathematics that will have to be made up some time,” rising senior Kiara Marchado’s father Michael Kawadski said. 

   Unlike in the spring of the 2019-2020 school year, the district plans to implement a letter grade system and take attendance to ensure that students attend their classes.

   “Synchronized distance learning is necessary. Otherwise there will be students who teach themselves and others who do nothing, and that would not be good for the district. As for grades, I think it is important for students to receive letter grades which will hopefully hold both the students and the teachers accountable,” Arends said.

   The district hopes that Canvas, the online learning management tool replacing School Loop, will allow teachers to post assignments, grades, and other school materials and help ensure academic honesty. 

   “I worry a little bit about academic dishonesty, especially because we will be issuing grades. I understand that Canvas has a way for online or distance testing that is used by universities, so I am hopeful it will work out,” Living Earth teacher Lori Tewksbury said. 

   With these new digital alternatives, the isolated nature of online education and its effects on the well-being of students concerns some critics.

   “I think online school is going to affect my mental health in a negative way. I feel connected to people through physical or in-person interactions, which currently isn’t possible. Without those interactions, I feel more disconnected from the real world and overall less motivated,” rising junior Sylvia Deng said.  

   Parents also anticipate their children’s mental health worsening in a variety of ways. 

   “Mental health afflictions will likely touch vastly more students than COVID-19. The effects will vary a lot from mild situational depression at missing out on life’s milestones to more serious pain experienced by students who need to school the most due to limited social circles or dysfunctional family situations,” Kawadsaki said. 

   Although students and staff will not be able to interact in person, many community members stress that it is important to support one another during the 2020-2021 school year. 

   “In the beginning, our slogan was ‘Community Can’t be Canceled’ and as the situation continues, our unity has to be what holds us together,” rising senior Madison Payne said. “I think now, it’s crucial that we reach out to each other and show up where we can. If we focus on our community, we will be more likely to not do anything to put others at risk and we’ll get through this faster.” 

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