Coast Unified School District staff, parents, and students spoke for and against a return to in-person instruction
during the March 11 board meeting, and the district ultimately decided to reopen its doors for the last two months of the school year.
Coast Unified was the last district in SLO County to have the discussion.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of transitioning kindergarten through fifth-grade students to in-person instruction on April 12, after the district’s scheduled spring break. Secondary school students will transition into physical classrooms after that.
The four-hour-long virtual meeting had more than 100 participants on the line who talked about the pains of distance learning, how it’s been beneficial for some students, and the concerns that teachers have about returning to school without being vaccinated. A majority of speakers were in favor of in-person instruction.
Scott Smith, Coast Unified’s superintendent, said that all Coast Unified staff were offered COVID-19 vaccine appointments and a majority of teachers had registered.
During public comment, Coast Union High School senior Sophie Mackinnon said many seniors in the class of 2021 didn’t feel that allowing face-to-face instruction would be beneficial to students or teachers.
“The transition from online learning to in-person learning is a great one and one that is probably going to take a lot of time and effort. Only giving us a little over two months time to do this transition is not nearly enough,” Mackinnon said.
She argued that while students want the normalcy that comes with returning to the classroom, Mackinnon and many others are now accustomed to their new schedule of online classes that’s allowed some to have part-time employment, volunteer, or participate in other extracurriculars.
Daniel Schalk, one of Coast Union High School’s science teachers, talked about his experience as an educator and a parent of three children who hasn’t been faring well during this distance learning period.
“My experience with homeschooling my children in addition to teaching has been by-and-large disastrous. I am unskilled at teaching 5-year-olds to add and subtract. I am much better at teaching seniors calculus,” Schalk said.
As part of the in-person teaching plan, elementary school students will be in classrooms from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and secondary school students will be on campus from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The campuses will remain open for students who need access to assistance or participate in learning pods.
All students and staff are required to practice social distancing and wear face masks at all times while on campus. Parents and students have the option to continue with distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
After voting in support of reopening classrooms, district board president Samuel Shalhoub said he felt the district was taking a “pretty huge risk.”
“But as the board president, I will stand in support of our board’s decision and I will do everything in my power to protect our community as we move forward with our transition,” Shalhoub said. ∆