FUHSD forms task force to address COVID-19 challenges

Audrey Wong and Youqi Huang

For the past couple of months, the PTSA, teachers union, teacher department heads and student representatives have been working to address issues resulting from COVID-19 as part of a task force created by FUHSD.

The task force’s main purpose is to give a voice to the community’s perspective on district-level issues and address those that affect students, including refunding prom tickets. They have also focused on supporting students with academic challenges, such as those who have difficulty keeping up with remote work.

“The task force helps the district evaluate a variety of issues, such as academic evaluations or the logistics of returning to school, through discussion,” parent representative Sridevi Sunderaj Anwar said. “We provide feedback regarding the viability of offered solutions, raise concerns to be considered and provide perspectives unique to the community members we represent.”

At each meeting, the task force begins by discussing district reports and operations that include managing budget and meal services, providing internet access through hotspots for students, and providing student support from teachers and mental health services.

The second segment of each meeting is allocated for discussing pressing issues such as the credit/no credit grading system and the reopening of school in the fall. The third and final portion of the meeting is specifically dedicated to student questions.  

When the task force was formed, Principal Maria Jackson asked Anwar, a member of Lynbrook’s School Site Council, if she would be willing to serve on the task force to represent Lynbrook parents. As a representative, Anwar is now responsible for attending meetings, giving feedback on written content and voicing her opinion during discussions. 

“As a representative, I take into consideration issues such as our current environment, our district’s adherence to safety, as well as the diverse background and academic abilities of students,” Anwar said. “I believe parent representatives are important to the task force because family engagement in schools promotes student success. Parents are able provide insights into family life in relation to academic achievement that the district might not be privy to learning otherwise.”

Students representatives on the task force are either Intradistrict Council members or ASB officers who expressed interest in assisting the task force and were then appointed by the superintendent. Student representatives, like all other representatives, serve an advisory position and are chiefly responsible for considering how the district’s decisions will specifically affect students.

“It is important to have student input on the task force because a school district’s primary goal is educating students,” student representative Stephen Yang said. “Because of this, student input is paramount in shaping district policy.”

For example, Yang proposed the district include Chinese on all FUHSD communications to  make it easier for parents to understand what is happening because a large proportion of families in the district speak Chinese as their primary language. His suggestion was implemented in the next email the district sent. 

In addition to the suggestions from representatives, student representative Akhil Aggarwal stresses the importance of input from individual students. 

“Our main purpose is to have the students be heard,” Aggarwal said. “We do have a big say in what goes on in the district, so you should utilize your voice for any concerns or questions.”

Student representatives have an assignment each week where they are encouraged to improve various ideas suggested by fellow task force members. One assignment was to fine-tune the idea some teachers had to leave comments on grade reports, based on their desires to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of students’ performances for those reading the reports in light of credit/no credit grading. 

Currently there are between 30 to 40 participants who attend the meetings. In the future, this number will increase as more students, such as underclassmen, start to participate in the Zoom meetings and join the task force.The task force recently grew to include more school officials as well, including Lynbrook Principal Maria Jackson. Following the expansion in its members, the task force is expected to have different meetings within the task force and subcommittees in the future. 

Although members share their opinions on these issues, district decisions ultimately lie in the hands of the superintendent and board members. Task force members discuss the issues among themselves and present a resolution on the behalf of the whole committee for the district to take into consideration when deciding. 

As the situation progresses, the task force continues to advise the district to address the new circumstances.

“I would like students to know that I am honored to represent our school in the task force and all individuals volunteering their time are making insightful and creative suggestions to address issues,” Anwar said. “They can be at ease knowing that despite these difficult times, FUHSD’s approach is all encompassing, pragmatic and thoughtful.”