After months of intense pressure from families concerned about learning loss and mental health implications, starting April 12, San Francisco public schools are approaching the personal greeting of a small segment of students.
But not everyone wants to go back yet. While those eager to return have been getting louder in recent months, distance learning is working well enough for some families in the San Francisco Unified School District while others still have health and logistical concerns about returning this spring.
By late February, 57 percent of families that responded to an SFUSD survey – about 6,700 out of a total of 11,600 eligible for the first round of return – plan to send children back to physical education. A significant number of families choose to stay on distance learning, even though 19 percent of families have not yet responded to the survey sent out in December.
According to the survey, preferences vary due in part to demographics. About 80 percent of white families, 62 percent of non-English learners, and 83 percent of students in Korean language pathways said they would return in person. On the other hand, 36 percent of Asian families, 41 percent of Filipino families, 19 percent of bilingual Cantonese program students, and 48 percent of socio-economically disadvantaged families have de-registered.
For Jose Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, parents of a first grader at Dolores Huerta Elementary School, their daughter’s health remains a top priority. Jazmin was born with various medical conditions, fought leukemia and has Down syndrome. Colds make her very sick and she has problems wearing a mask, they told the examiner in Spanish through a translator.
“It’s really important for us to be able to keep her at home,” said Anabella Ochoa. “Your health is very fragile. We have to do our part, but it’s also very nice because we can learn more about how she learns and be an active part of her learning. “
It was also a great experience for the Tenderloin family, which includes a third grader at the Tenderloin Community School. They have developed a new tradition of spending afternoons together in Golden Gate Park. Anabella Ochoa works part-time and Victor Luna is dependent on disability assistance due to an injured arm.
“We can’t have many things, but we can have the things we need,” said Victor Luna. “I’m not currently working, but I can spend all of my time supporting my daughter. It’s a sacrifice well worth it. “
They don’t consider the right time to return until the prospects are more certain. The parents expressed their deep gratitude for their teacher, who provided them with materials and was very attentive.
Health is also a top priority for Marlena Cohen, mother of a fifth grader at Dolores Huerta. Cohen has her daughter Rikkie-Nicole Jones on a disciplined schedule to wake up and get dressed at the same time as she would for sports school, with a no-pajama policy. Despite missing her friends, Cohen said Jones continued to perform well in school and even performed better on some tests.
“This whole pandemic showed me that there was a mature side to it that I didn’t know about,” said Cohen, who works with grandparents from home to help out in Portola. “I can see that she is really fine and that we are spending more time together. In the beginning it was very difficult. “
However, Cohen has serious classroom safety concerns at SFUSD, which dates back to the fall, and is applying to private schools that have shown they can work safely since October.
“I’m just very nervous,” said Cohen. “I don’t know if the schools are ready for it. When I see something in writing, the headmaster is holding a town hall in his hand via Zoom and I see how it will work, then I can relax a little. “
Feeling that he is out of date and lacking clarity also makes Eduardo Abarca hesitate to send his nephew, an English learner in kindergarten, back to Cesar Chavez Elementary School this spring. But distance learning doesn’t work well for his family and they are concerned about the boy’s language development, socialization and lack of structure.
“It was a very challenging time to be inside and locked in,” said Abarca. “Our hesitation [to return in spring] isn’t so much COVID, at least for our family, it’s the mess that is going to happen in school and not knowing how to do these things. We would like a focus on outdoor education, a focus on smaller class sizes, and a focus on ensuring stronger parental upbringing. “
Abarca admits that he and his brother, who have both parents, didn’t complete the survey and were a little disconnected from district communications, but says they still felt inundated with information. After losing a family member to coronavirus, they know the aftermath of the pandemic but have had to keep working and are generally concerned about the implications for mental health.
Diana Hadeed, 70, is vaccinated, but it is uncomfortable for her to personally send one of her five grandchildren back with variants in the picture – at least not until the teachers are vaccinated. School staff became eligible earlier this month and The City released vaccination codes for SFUSD this week to help prioritize appointments.
“I’m in no hurry to send someone to school,” said Hadeed. “I will not risk myself. What are you doing in half a day? “
The grandchildren, whose mother is disabled, are between 7 and 17 years old and have excelled academically just as they did before the pandemic. Hadeed said her five grandchildren help each other with homework and she always helps, usually with the youngest in first grade, but she doesn’t mind at all. One of the students doesn’t want to return in person at all, she said.
Superintendent Vincent Matthews acknowledged that distance learning worked better for some students, and said the district would look for ways to incorporate these lessons.
“We’re learning a lot about the way students learn, especially online,” Matthews said Tuesday. “This makes us think and think about how we can move education forward.”
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