Community reflects as schools reopen

As circumstances change constantly, the community shares their views since the reopening of all RJUHSD campuses.

As+of+February+1st%2C+the+chart+listed+above+entails+of+all+the+confirmed+COVID+cases+since+October+12%2C+2020.

RJUHSD

As of February 1st, the chart listed above entails of all the confirmed COVID cases since October 12, 2020.

   On December 14, 2020, the RJUHSD school board voted unanimously to return all respective RJUHSD school campuses back full-time – 5 days a week with 70 minute periods.

   Due to the nature of the circumstances, six foot social distancing in all classrooms can not be guaranteed. Consequently, if one student tests positive, the entire class must quarantine for 14 days, as per Placer County Department of Health requirements.

   As an alternative, students have the option to stay online for the entire spring term through enrollment within the RSVL Academy. However, the restrictive curriculum provided by the academy – in offering little to no AP, IB, and Honors courses – forces students to choose between their health and obtaining a rigorous education to supplement their post-secondary goals.

   Due to the limited space available in the RSVL Academy, students have the ability to Zoom into their classes remotely for the month of January. Recently, this option has been extended through the first quarter of the spring semester.

 

Students for Safety Coalition

   The Students for Safety Coalition is a student-led organization consisting of representatives from each school within the district advocating for “safe and equitable campuses for all students and staff”. 

   In December, the SSC campaign created a petition, in promotion for a hybrid model for all RJUHSD campuses.

   “(Through the petition,) we are trying to keep pushing (the school board) by showing that there’s a lot of community support,” said Kaneesha Goyal, one of the co-leaders of the SSC. “Our primary goal is to make sure that the student input is being heard in all these (board) decisions, … since we are the ones that have to go to school and (are directly impacted by their decision).”

Our primary goal is to make sure that the student input is being heard in all these (board) decisions, … since we are the ones that have to go to school and (are directly impacted by their decision)”

— Kaneesha Goyal

   The petition currently has over 3,500 signatures consisting of a diverse range of students, parents, and community members.

   Julia Crippen, a student attending Antelope High School, was one of the supporters who signed the petition.

   “I chose to go back to school before the recent spike in cases,” Crippen wrote as her reason for signing the petition. “I live with a high risk person, and now, I feel as if I am putting him in danger because of my decision. I believe a hybrid schedule would be best for everyone in our community, including school faculty, students, and relatives alike.”

   Other reasons for signing include concerns from families who were waitlisted for the RSVL Academy, as well as community members who were alarmed by the rising number of COVID cases within the county.

   Beyond the petition, leaders from the SSC campaign have testified at school board meetings to echo the concerns reflected by the petition.

   “We are planning on testifying at the next school board meeting on (January 26th) to make sure that there’s as much COVID safety as possible,” Goyal said. “At the December school board meeting, (the board) was not offering online learning for students (on the waitlist) who couldn’t get into the RSVL Academy… so we want to make sure that (those students) continue to have access to online learning.”

   

Abigail Howard – GBHS Student

   One primary argument for returning back to school was the educational emphasis, which some students and families argued is what the virtual learning experience had lacked.

   GBHS freshman Abigail Howard chose to return to campus for the start of the spring semester primarily for this reason.

   “The main factor that weighed (my decision to come) back on campus was (the) academics,” Howard said. “I felt that in-person learning would be a lot more beneficial for me in the long-run and so far, it has been. Another factor for me was that I wanted to be on campus to get the full experience of … a physical activity class like weight conditioning.”

I felt that in-person learning would be a lot more beneficial for me in the long-run and so far, it has been.”

— Abigail Howard

   Despite some minor internet issues, Howard believes the in-person experience has been well worth it, and the school has taken the necessary precautions to maintain a safe environment for all students and staff.

   Unfortunately, Howard has experienced having teachers who had to quarantine and teach an in-person class virtually, as well as having been told to quarantine herself due to a potential exposure at school.

   “I did have  a teacher who was quarantined, (and) it made the class go a lot slower because of constant wifi (and computer) issues in class,” Howard said. “It was a lot harder to understand what the teacher was saying or talking about during those (incidents).”

   Fortunately, however, Howard’s personal quarantine was a misunderstanding which lasted for only one day.

   “I only missed one day (due to quarantine), but I felt like a lot of class time was spent by the teachers away from their desks or mainly focusing on the in-person students,” Howard said. “I think the teachers and students are doing their best to try and handle the situation, but I definitely think there should be more structure (and) guidelines around all of this.”

 

Tammy Kacalek – Oakmont High School Parent

   Tammy Kacalek, a parent of three teenagers in high school, has witnessed both experiences offered, as her children are split between going in-person and staying online.

   Regardless, Kacalek believes that the district is doing their best to keep students and staff members safe on campus.

   “There’s only so much that you can do with so many unknown factors,” Kacalek said. “Schools are going with (the) guidelines (that) are given, but a lot of stuff changes from time to time, depending on the number (of COVID cases). I believe that (schools) are doing their best to keep students and staff safe, but (they) also can’t be held accountable (for everyone)… because they have no control over what parents and students do on their own time.”

I believe that (schools) are doing their best to keep students and staff safe, but (they) also can’t be held accountable (for everyone)… because they have no control over what parents and students do on their own time.”

— Tammy Kacalek

   Despite this, Kacalek expressed minor frustration in the school board’s decisions, since it did not seem to reflect any of the public’s concerns.

   “The board is going to do what they are going to do anyways, (and) I think it has a lot to do with politics,” Kacalek said. “It’s not always about the students or staff; a lot of the times they are worried about themselves, and that’s not just with COVID. I don’t think parent opinions were truly taken into account, (and) I don’t think that my opinion or my voice would have mattered at all.”

   As circumstances change constantly, Kacalek urges people to remain hopeful and considerate of others during such unprecedented times.

   “Now is the time that everybody needs to pause and think of other people,” Kacalek said. “And if it’s containing your spit by wearing a mask, (then) it’s not the end of the world; it’s taking into consideration other people and their circumstances.”

 

Lina Abu-Samaha – Oakmont High School Student

    Having struggled with online learning in the last semester, OHS senior Lina Abu-Samaha decided to return to school in-person for the spring semester to obtain the full educational experience.

   “I learn much better in person; I need that engagement – that physical interaction – in order to learn,” Abu-Samaha said. “(Now), I can understand the teachers better, … and I can ask for help so much easier (since) it is easier to speak up in class versus online.”

   Abu-Samaha and the rest of her family received the COVID vaccination recently, which lessens their fears in regards to potentially contracting the virus in school.

   Despite this, however, with hundreds of students in quarantine across the district, Abu-Samaha believes that the school board could have been more receptive and considerate to the concerns of the students and staff.

We have had so many cases, so much contact-tracing, and there’s so many people gone … because the board rushed into (sending students back to campus)”

— Lina Abu-Samaha

   “We have had so many cases, so much contact-tracing, and there’s so many people gone … because the board rushed into (sending students back to campus),” Abu-Samaha said. “(The) seating charts are spread out, but every time (there is change), you have to make a new seating chart which is very inconvenient for teachers. As much as I love going back, why are we going back full-time? Why don’t we have a hybrid schedule (so) we can start off a bit smoother?”

   Although she has not had to quarantine herself, Abu-Samaha has a class where her teacher is Zooming in from home due to personal health reasons.

   “We are very limited in that class … because the WiFi is so glitchy (and) our calls keep dropping,” Abu-Samaha said. “We can’t really understand most of the time, (and) we don’t have a lot of assignments because (our teacher) can’t really explain it that much to us. It’s definitely very different (and) less engaging (since) nobody really participates (or) talks to each other in class.”

   Regardless, Abu-Samaha is fortunate to still be able to have access to an education, and believes that the school is doing their best to provide a safe experience for all students.

   “I am proud of the staff and students for taking the appropriate measures, (and) the nurses are doing an amazing job (with) contact tracing,” Abu Samaha said. “I am just very grateful that I get to finish my senior year in person.” 

  

Teolin McNairy – Roseville High School

   Teolin McNairy, a current junior attending Roseville High School, was one out of the many students quarantined within the first week of school. 

   Although McNairy already had her own personal encounter with the virus prior to the reopening of school, she still felt that Zoom should be offered throughout the entire school year.

  “I personally don’t agree with sending kids into a classroom with thirty to forty kids when there is no way to implement social distancing. I think by doing this, we are just taking a step back instead of a step forward.”

— Teolin McNairy

   “The main deciding factor for me to return to in-person learning was that teachers were going to be teaching to the class and not the Zoom (students),” McNairy said. “Many of my teachers said they would do their best but their main focus was (going to be) the kids in person.”

  Upon returning to school, McNairy’s biggest concern was the health of the faculty and other students.

   “I personally don’t agree with sending kids into a classroom with thirty to forty kids when there is no way to implement social distancing,” McNairy said. “I think by doing this, we are just taking a step back instead of a step forward.”

  Roseville High School’s approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a two week closure of the school as classes were being put into quarantine rapidly. 

   “I feel like this on and off, going to school one week, quarantining for two (weeks) is definitely putting a strain on my education because I can’t develop a regular routine,” McNairy said.

 

Caitlyn Casey – Roseville High School

   As the plan to re-open school was just weeks after Christmas and New Year’s Caitlyn Casey, a current junior at Roseville High School, felt she had no other option but to attend school in-person.

The biggest deciding factor … was probably that the teachers main focus was going to be the in (person) students, so it would be even more difficult learning online.”

— Caitlyn Casey

   “The biggest deciding factor … was probably that the teachers main focus was going to be the in (person) students, so it would be even more difficult learning online,” Casey said. “With online school, my routine was much healthier. I could have full, healthy meals while home and got a good amount of sleep. I had more free time during online school and more freedom academically as well.”

   Unfortunately, Casey was required to quarantine within the first week of school, but felt it was much easier as many of her teachers had been quarantined too and were on Zoom alongside her. Her routine had now gone back to what it was before.

   “Although we never will know, I think they rushed us going back which could have taken away the possibility of having a prom or senior ball along with other sports,” Casey said. “I don’t think the board should have rushed us going back so soon. I also don’t feel like they accurately included outside voices in their decision.”

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