News

High school teachers worry about returning to campus

A closed door leading to an empty classroom at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton on March 16, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier/ The Almanac.

Many Sequoia Union High School District teachers are raising concerns about reopening school campuses this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Edith Salvatore, president of the Sequoia District Teachers Association.

The district, which includes Woodside and Menlo-Atherton high schools and TIDE Academy, announced June 25 that students will return to school in the fall semester on a split schedule — half online, half on-campus.

But Salvatore said that many teachers remain skeptical of teaching on campus, with concerns ranging from COVID-19 health risks to diminished quality of education for students, among other misgivings.

"The teachers are not a monolith," Salvatore said. "But a good number have been reaching out and expressed worry."

In a survey conducted by the Sequoia District Teachers Association between June 23 and 26, approximately 46% of teachers said "no" when asked whether they would be comfortable returning to campus.

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Meanwhile, 16% responded "yes" to the query, and the remaining 37% chose to fill out a written form explaining what criteria they would need in order to feel comfortable. Most listed a desire for extra safety precautions to prevent spread of the virus, such as face shields and daily sanitization of classrooms.

According to a June 25 letter from Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Mary Streshly, when students return in the fall they will rotate between online and on-campus learning (known as a "hybrid" model), with about half of the student body on campus at a time. Schools will survey students with health questionnaires and do temperature checks upon students' arrival on campus.

Salvatore said that teachers would have to prepare lessons for both online and in-person learning, although they would only see each individual student once per week.

Nancy Day, a science teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, is among the teachers concerned about on-campus learning. "Being a science teacher I keep looking at the science and the data, and I keep seeing these surges," she said. "And I think it's a little irresponsible to be putting kids together in a room."

Day also said she has concerns about the logistics of teaching in-person classes under restrictive safety measures to prevent spreading the virus.

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"Following the CDC guidelines, we can't share equipment. We can't do labs. We won't be able to use any equipment — that's the whole reason to come to a science class," she said. "The class is not going to look at all the way it used to look."

Caren McDonald, who teaches English at the district's East Palo Alto Academy, said she opposes returning to campus in the fall because of COVID-19 health risks.

"I love my students and I love my school," she said. "But I think it's just too unsafe at this time."

Salvatore said that while the district has released general plans for the hybrid model in the fall, details about specific safety measures in the classroom haven't been released.

For now, Streshly's letter said that the hybrid plan only applies to the fall semester, and that it could change depending on local health orders.

"While we are looking forward to seeing our students on campus in the fall, it is important to remember that our current plans may change in the event our county issues new health directives, as SUHSD is required to adhere to updated orders," she said. "We understand that last minute changes in plans can cause upset and other difficulties, and we commit to sending out a community update by August 1, 2020 to confirm our targeted schedule of August 17 for starting school."

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High school teachers worry about returning to campus

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 11:26 am

Many Sequoia Union High School District teachers are raising concerns about reopening school campuses this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Edith Salvatore, president of the Sequoia District Teachers Association.

The district, which includes Woodside and Menlo-Atherton high schools and TIDE Academy, announced June 25 that students will return to school in the fall semester on a split schedule — half online, half on-campus.

But Salvatore said that many teachers remain skeptical of teaching on campus, with concerns ranging from COVID-19 health risks to diminished quality of education for students, among other misgivings.

"The teachers are not a monolith," Salvatore said. "But a good number have been reaching out and expressed worry."

In a survey conducted by the Sequoia District Teachers Association between June 23 and 26, approximately 46% of teachers said "no" when asked whether they would be comfortable returning to campus.

Meanwhile, 16% responded "yes" to the query, and the remaining 37% chose to fill out a written form explaining what criteria they would need in order to feel comfortable. Most listed a desire for extra safety precautions to prevent spread of the virus, such as face shields and daily sanitization of classrooms.

According to a June 25 letter from Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Mary Streshly, when students return in the fall they will rotate between online and on-campus learning (known as a "hybrid" model), with about half of the student body on campus at a time. Schools will survey students with health questionnaires and do temperature checks upon students' arrival on campus.

Salvatore said that teachers would have to prepare lessons for both online and in-person learning, although they would only see each individual student once per week.

Nancy Day, a science teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, is among the teachers concerned about on-campus learning. "Being a science teacher I keep looking at the science and the data, and I keep seeing these surges," she said. "And I think it's a little irresponsible to be putting kids together in a room."

Day also said she has concerns about the logistics of teaching in-person classes under restrictive safety measures to prevent spreading the virus.

"Following the CDC guidelines, we can't share equipment. We can't do labs. We won't be able to use any equipment — that's the whole reason to come to a science class," she said. "The class is not going to look at all the way it used to look."

Caren McDonald, who teaches English at the district's East Palo Alto Academy, said she opposes returning to campus in the fall because of COVID-19 health risks.

"I love my students and I love my school," she said. "But I think it's just too unsafe at this time."

Salvatore said that while the district has released general plans for the hybrid model in the fall, details about specific safety measures in the classroom haven't been released.

For now, Streshly's letter said that the hybrid plan only applies to the fall semester, and that it could change depending on local health orders.

"While we are looking forward to seeing our students on campus in the fall, it is important to remember that our current plans may change in the event our county issues new health directives, as SUHSD is required to adhere to updated orders," she said. "We understand that last minute changes in plans can cause upset and other difficulties, and we commit to sending out a community update by August 1, 2020 to confirm our targeted schedule of August 17 for starting school."

Comments

David B
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:00 pm
David B, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:00 pm
16 people like this

I certainly sympathize with the teachers... I'm getting more and more nervous about sending our high school senior to school in August. Other states are showing that young people aren't good at taking the restrictions seriously, and they're discovering more serious and long term health impacts from even mild COVID-19 cases. Hmmmm.......


Jennifer P
another community
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm
Jennifer P, another community
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm
7 people like this

I’m curious what percentage of SDTA members actually responded to the survey between June 23-June 26? How come that is not reported here?


pvrez
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:37 am
pvrez, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:37 am
Like this comment

[Post removed due to trolling]


Liesel
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 12, 2020 at 7:06 pm
Liesel, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 12, 2020 at 7:06 pm
6 people like this

I'm nervous about sending my kiddo back to school too, but I support the idea. The American Academy of Pediatricians supports reopening schools, and I think they're right. The national experiment in on-line education last spring was a dismal failure, so the kids are already behind. And the kids are not a susceptible to it as the adult teachers. If anything, the kids have to worry about the adults bringing Covid to them. I understand the very real concerns of the teachers though, and all mitigation measures should be taken and a back-up plan for reverting to on-line education should be in place.


John
Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jul 13, 2020 at 12:01 am
John, Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jul 13, 2020 at 12:01 am
12 people like this

Look at the data, people. Since inception, there have been ZERO Covid deaths reported in SMC for anyone under 30. Zero.

Yes, Number of deaths is not the only metric but it’s a pretty powerful one. Here’s another: the number of cases among young people is less than 1% of all infections.

Outdoor classes, several days a week, is more than a reasonable way to manage the situation. If anything we should be more concerned about teacher health and resources To adapt.


Downtowner
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm
Downtowner, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm
12 people like this

Biggest hazard is to teachers & staff, who are subject to whatever viral transmissions can be brought into classrooms by asymptomatic students from their home contacts. How careful are the adults at home?
Many people are no longer masking or hand-washing while socializing @ home with friends & neighbors. Do all parents use PPE & observe social distancing outside their own homes every day as is recommended?

No one knows, but teachers are supposed to believe that each kid entering the classroom comes from a covid-free environment & isn't carrying anything contagious? Do dad's barber & mom's manicurist live in overcrowded conditions, a known high-risk factor? Oops.


David B
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm
David B, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jul 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm
7 people like this

@John: What makes me scared for the KIDS (as well as adults) in spite of the low infection rates, is not the death rates, but the stories of serious, life-changing health issues for young people who had a very mild case... strokes, blood clots, damage to lungs, heart, and other organs. Sure, they may be one-in-a-million anecdotes, I get that. The knowledge of this disease is changing fast, but it feels like the more they learn, the scarier it is. One doctor called it "the Polio of our time". It's hard to factor this into our risk calculations.


Stra
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Stra, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2020 at 6:10 pm
4 people like this

My biggest concern is any teaching going to happen? From March to early June, my teen had no classes, no teacher support, months delay in responses from teachers when emails were sent, no feedback and the list goes on. Sure she passed. But now there is fear of moving to the next level of math, language and how to keep up if she’s back to functioning alone again.


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