SUHSD announces plan to return 10 percent of students to campus

The+SUHSD+Board+of+Trustees+held+a+special+meeting+on+Feb.+26+announcing+that+the+next+phase+of+the+10+percent+reopening+plan+is+to+be+implemented+on+April+12.%C2%A0

Alexa Vazquez

The SUHSD Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Feb. 26 announcing that the next phase of the 10 percent reopening plan is to be implemented on April 12. 

In the latest Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Board of Trustees Special Meeting held on Feb. 26, district officials announced that the next phase of the 10 percent reopening plan is to be implemented on April 12. 

Furthermore, Interim Superintendent Moises Aguirre, Ed.D., stated in a letter to SUHSD schools that the County of San Diego would begin Phase 1B (Tier 1) vaccinations for teachers on Feb. 27.

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“There are many factors that could slow this progress with new strains, community behaviors, etc., but it looks like the county is on track if this progress continues for a potential mid-March time frame moving to Tier 2,” SUHSD Security Coordinator and Advisor John Czajkowski said in the Feb. 26 Special Meeting.

Aguirre’s letter also included that the County of San Diego is working closely with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and Southern California Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA) to help distribute vaccines to teachers “as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The reopening plan includes bringing 10 percent of students back on-campus for in-person instruction. An estimated 240 students would return to Bonita Vista High (BVH) as well as a selected few teachers and staff members. BVH Assistant Principal Esther Wise explained that the return to campus is entirely voluntary for all staff and students.

As seen in the District Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), document that was provided by BVH Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D., there is a list of three main requirements:

  1. County of San Diego must be in tier two (red) or lower. 
  2. A 14 day SUHSD (by district zip code) average case rate less than 200 cases for 14 days consecutively. District zip codes include: 92173, 92154, 91911, 91914, 91910, 91950, 91915, 91932, 91913, and 91902.
  3. SUHSD (by district zip code) [COVID] positivity [rate] is less than 8 percent for 14 days consecutively.

Wise described that students and teachers are advised to follow health guidelines and stay in their small cohorts of 14 people while on campus. Additionally, before entering, students and teachers must abide by the check-in process to ensure that those who experience COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home and treated by doctors.

“If you are one of the students [returning to campus] and your period one teacher is back [on campus], you would go to period one and you would have your laptop while engaging with your period one teacher during synchronous teaching,” Del Rosario said. “If your first period teacher was able to return but your second period teacher wasn’t able to volunteer to come back, we would have another place for you to do your distance learning in a group and maybe with a substitute teacher or resource teacher supervising the classroom where they can stay six feet apart.”

The selection of students returning to campus is ultimately dependent on teachers’ decision to return. Students are given the choice to return to campus in order to receive the support they need, however it is reliant on if their teachers are willing to also return. One student among the small group who has been attending on-campus school in a previous phase to aid struggling students is sophomore Tanya Hernandez who communicated with her teachers about her situation with distance learning at home. Hernandez expressed that it was hard to focus at home, but with someone supervising her and making sure she stays on task, her grades have drastically changed and improved.

“In two of my classes, I wasn’t doing too well and [I was] failing them [while learning at home], but now I am no longer failing them,” Hernandez said. “In one day I was able to raise one of my class grades by 23 percent. I was able to raise another grade by 15 percent, so [being on campus] has changed my grades a lot.”

Even with the safety precautions taken on campus, students like senior Gerardo Gonzalez are still sceptical of going back and aren’t sure what choice to make.

My mom is at high risk [for] COVID, so I know I would want to make sure I don’t catch it even if it wouldn’t affect me that much,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know if I could go back unless everyone is vaccinated and COVID is gone.”

Gonzalez’s sentiment is shared among other students facing the dilemma of going back to in-person school or not. Even if they are not at high risk themselves, they do not want to potentially bring the virus back home to their families and put them in danger. Nevertheless, students like Gonzalez continue to miss the atmosphere of in-person instructions.

“I actually enjoyed school more than most people would think and a lot of my teachers were the reason for that,” Gonzalez said. “They were really good at making their lectures interesting, fun and educational. Nowadays, I feel even teachers are a bit tired of everything and they’re prioritizing [to] make us not feel overwhelmed, even at the cost of that teacher-student relationship.”

Hernandez’ academic experience has benefited greatly from going onto campus. For her, the change in atmosphere has fostered a new found success in online school which she believes could help other struggling students as well.

“There are no teachers to tell you to stay on task [at home] and this caused me to not do well in class. Being here on campus is something I recommend since it has made a drastic improvement and I am proud of the grades I have now,” Hernandez said.

Remaining students and teachers who are not part of the 10 percent reopening plan will continue to attend distance learning until the next phasethe 20 percent reopening plan is confirmed.

“I want to make sure that our Bonita Vista High School families and community know that the safety and security of our students and staff is our priority,” Wise said. “It has been a priority before the pandemic, it’s the priority during the pandemic, and it will remain a priority after the pandemic.” 

This piece was updated on March 11, 2021.