While adjusting to a virtual classroom, students and teachers alike have faced challenges during remote learning. Students have had less engagement with peers, while teachers have had to support students with limited interaction and adapt courses for less class time overall. Although remote learning is not ideal, the district made a wise decision for the safety of the students, faculty members and their families in keeping school closed for the entire first semester.
Emergency remote learning was mandated on March 13 due to county health recommendations to close schools. Students were in their fourth period class when Principal Maria Jackson announced that school would be closing for 3 weeks of emergency remote learning, with hopes to return back to in person learning after that. Due to the sudden shift online, the district had to quickly implement a new schedule. Many students and parents felt the new schedule lacked enough rigor and didn’t provide enough instruction time to adequately cover topics, especially for AP classes who still had to review and prepare for exams. As the pandemic worsened and the county health department continued to update schools, Lynbrook found itself in remote learning until the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
When it became apparent that school would not return to campus in the spring, FUHSD officials organized a COVID-19 task force, composed of at first 20 and later 40 to 50 students, parents, teachers, administrators and support staff, to gather input on a possible 2020-2021 school year plan. Every other week, the task force met in a Zoom meeting to discuss district level issues including the logistics of returning to school. Within the COVID-19 Taskforce, both parents and ASB students who were selected to represent the student body wanted to return to school.
While preparing for the 2020-2021 school year in the summer, alternatives to remote learning were still being considered, including a hybrid model that allowed students to stagger their time on campus rather than be fully in person. The current schedule was built to accommodate the possibility of a hybrid return.
The school community was split on how school would return during the upcoming school year. Due to the danger of COVID-19 infection, many individuals were opposed to having any class on campus. Others supported it, viewing the remote learning in the spring as very deficient and felt that students would be missing out on their high school experience. In the only district meeting held for the discussion of remote learning in July, several teachers, including Thao Nguyen, Jessica Lu and Connie Leung, argued that a more rigorous remote learning format would be better than returning to campus.
Until then, it seemed district leaders had still been leaning toward the return of in person school. A fair amount of parents and students also supported school opening. Through various platforms, many Lynbrook parents voiced their support for adopting a hybrid learning model. Overall, the five schools were split between wanting to stay online and returning back to their campuses.
“At that point the district seemed good with going back, but a lot of teachers didn’t. I think students and parents were divided,” said senior Vijaya Kukutla. “A handful of teachers spoke up and some of it was emotional. The board understood [their apprehensions] and decided to take it back to the district.”
Teachers that spoke at the meeting argued that the hybrid learning experience would be drastically different from the normal in person experience. Due to social distancing guidelines, both students and teachers would not be able to interact with each other as they could before the pandemic and in person small-group work, such as labs, would no longer be possible. Other teachers were concerned about the high health risks that returning to school would pose for themselves and for their family members.
“I was very upset because I love to teach, but I also love my family a lot,” said Leung. “If school reopened during a time where I personally felt like I was going to risk bringing home some life-changing illness to my family, I was going to have to choose between my job and my family.”
Many students also did not feel safe returning to campus, even in a hybrid model of learning. Though a hybrid model would allow students to have more of a normal high school experience, remote learning would greatly reduce risk of infection. Certain logistics of hybrid learning, such as maintaining social distancing during the passing periods, were uncertain. Students who live with their grandparents, were particularly worried because the elderly have the highest risk of infection.
“Some students might be asymptomatic but might transfer the virus to another student who might transfer it to their family, teachers or their friends and classmates,” sophomore Thomas Zheng said.
Many students had additional concerns besides safety, feeling that even if COVID-19 cases did not spike in spring, the transition to the hybrid model would create confusion because students had just become familiar with this new learning style.
After the decision was made, many students, parents and staff felt that it was the right choice because it protected all members of the school community. Returning to school would have exposed not just the students, but their family members, to COVID-19, increasing their risk of being infected.
Despite some strong pushback by various members of the community, the district leaders ultimately made the right decision. We encourage them to use the same care and consideration when making decisions regarding the pandemic moving into the second semester.
*The Epic staff voted 37-0 in favor of this stance, with 1 person abstaining.