High school delay provides crucial time for preparation

On Oct. 20, the CVUSD Board of Education voted 4-1 with an honorary yes from student trustee Addie Craig to send high schools back to in-person learning on Jan. 19, the start of the second semester. This is roughly two months after middle and elementary returns. Waiting until Jan. 19 will allow time for the district to address multiple scheduling issues, to prevent class disruption for students, and prioritize the health and safety of all.

Making the transition without sufficient time is an impossible scheduling feat. While a surface-level fix of schedule rearrangement was offered up, students do not want their teachers switched around in the middle of a quarter, or to be removed from their current classes. Each teacher has a different approach to education, and the development of student-teacher relationships throughout the year is critical to student success, especially for upperclassmen seeking recommendation letters. The district must take this social-emotional damage into account, and needs time to develop systems that will not disturb student-to-student or student-to-teacher dynamics.

Even if class scheduling could occur perfectly, making any rapid scheduling changes would harm student success in learning and curriculum continuity. Counselors must rearrange student schedules to account for proper cohort sizing while departments must pool curriculums. One suggestion for the blended model was to have two teachers cover the same class period, one remotely, the other in-person. Pragmatically, this would not work. Take the English department as one example: different periods of the same classes cover their literature in different orders, making it impossible for this system to function effectively at NPHS. Students do not deserve to suffer the loss or interruption of their valuable curricula.

Some high schoolers have organized protests against this date, believing that they are being treated unfairly by the district in comparison to their younger peers. However, these abled, non-ELL and relatively affluent high school students must understand the difficulties with transitioning to an in-person model unique to high school and that they are the least affected stakeholder. The formulaic approach of classes in high school of video notes outside of class and discussions in class was largely in place before COVID-19, and while it is undeniable that high schoolers do suffer from some effects of distance learning, we must acknowledge that a rapid return of high schools, particularly before the district is ready, will be unnecessarily reckless as well as no more effective than what is currently in place.

The vote for Jan. 19 was a decision that prioritized the students, the teachers and the staff of CVUSD. This delay provides NPHS the time to cover all the considerations up in the air and gives the district the unique opportunity to pilot methods and programs by school site.  If we cannot ensure that students and staff will be better off after re-opening than before, all this will have been for nothing. The district must nail this on the first try, and a measured approach is the only way to enable them to do so.