SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As schools begin to prepare to return to classes, certain communities are facing more challenges than others as they implement new guidelines to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
In San Jose, the East Side Union High School District is set to have classes start up again in a few of weeks and is committed to helping its students adapt to a new classroom setting.
“Our plan moving forward for the fall is going to be to start the school year in 100 percent distance learning,” said Teresa Marquez, Associate Superintendent for Education Services for the ESUHSD.
“Meaning that our students will receive their instruction via video conferencing as well as other digital platforms where they will be able to access instruction, assignments and their parents will also be able to access communication via the different digital platforms that we have available.”
Response to COVID-19 public health guidelines
Last week Governor Gavin Newsom mandated schools on the state’s watchlist for a rise in COVID-19 cases must begin fall instruction online which includes schools in Santa Clara County.
For the ESUHSD, the ongoing changes to public health guidelines and rise of COVID-19 cases throughout the state have forced the district to adapt quickly.
“There are still so many unknowns and so you’re trying to plan for the opening of schools in August where things constantly are changing whether it’s with new cases of COVID-19 surging or even just receiving the notification from the governor this last Friday to kind of have to shift our plans even though we may have been planning since the schools went into closure,” said Marquez.
“Hardest hit communities”
As a result of the pandemic, the district’s 22,000 plus students have been one the most affected communities throughout the South Bay.
“For our community unfortunately it’s been one of the hardest hit communities,” said Marquez.
“We are about 48 percent Latinx in terms of our student population … for our students they’ve had to wrestle with the challenges not only of the disease but also their parents potentially losing their jobs or their parents being considered essential employees which further exposes them to the illness.”
With the district moving towards distance learning, they say some students will have a harder time adapting to the new changes.
“And just being able to maybe not even have the accessibility or connectivity to be able to engage with their instruction … when you talk about a challenge that also continues to be a challenge that we’re going to address to ensure all of our students have the access to that quality education that they have a right to and that they deserve,” said Marquez.
Addressing student needs
The ESUHSD is also addressing additional students needs and will be providing mental health support and food distribution at each of its campuses.
“We will continue to provide them lunches as we’ve had this entire since the school closures,” said Marquez.
“We know that they also come with social, emotional and mental health needs so we have social workers that will continue to provide services even if it is through teleconferencing.”
The district will continue to follow public health guidelines and says there is a small chance of some campuses returning to in-person instruction later in the school year.
“We will revisit and look at some potential hybrid models for some of our smaller schools that have smaller student populations, some of our students with disabilities who may have that added need for that in-person on site instruction,” said Marquez.
“And trying to make sure first and foremost that we keep our community safe and healthy because it’s the reality of the pandemic but also looking at how do you ensure that we’re going to be able to continue to provide a quality instructional experience for all of our students.”