A year after schools closed across the state due to the coronavirus, elementary students at Snowline Joint Unified Schools District returned to in-person learning in mid-March.
Elementary students have been separated into three different groups in schools. Group A is on campus Mondays and Tuesdays from 8am till 11:30am. On Wednesdays, they are taught via remote learning, and Thursdays and Friday, they are taught through distance learning in the afternoon. Group B students are on campus Thursdays and Friday from 8am till 11:30am. Monday through Wednesday, they are taught by remote learning. There is also a group C, and these are students have chosen to remain in distance learning exclusively.
Shad Grijalva is the Principal at Baldy Mesa Elementary School. He says that having children return to school is a great feeling. “We’re in the kid business. So, you have a school that’s supposed to have kids on it. So, it’s nice just to get kids back on campus even though we’re only at about a third of capacity we normally run.”
As kids exit vehicles in front of campus, teachers wait in the 40-degree weather to escort them to their class. Teachers can be heard calling students by name and remarking on how much they have grown in the last year. Inside the vehicles, parents yell their goodbyes as the excited children return to school after a year away.
James Fields is the Director of Risk Management, Marketing, and Public Relations for SJUSD. The biggest concern he has with schools reopening is safety. He not only wants students to feel safe, but he wants them to remain safe at all times while on campus. To accomplish this, he says schools need to abide by the California Department of Public Health guidelines and by sticking to the safety plan. Wherever a line may form, there are stickers on the floor reminding people to stay six feet apart. In the classrooms, students have barriers at their desks. Instead of using water fountains, students are now given water bottles. These are all measures being taken to help keep a safe environment for students and staff to work at. Also, all teachers at SJUSD that wanted the coronavirus vaccine have been given the opportunity to take it.
Now that students have returned to school, Principal Grijalva says that the top priority for educators is safety and students’ social well-being. There may be some learning gaps among some because of distance learning, but for the most part, that is something teachers must contend with even when students are in school. “Our teachers are great. They’re going to make the most out of these three and a half hours that students have on campus. Even if it’s just two days a week.”
According to Principal Grijalva, approximately 40-50 percent of teachers at Baldy Mesa Elementary chose to take the vaccine. Taking the vaccine is not mandatory.