Some Santa Maria high school seniors return to classroom

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Santa Maria Joint Union High School District seniors returned to in-person learning for the first time in more than a year on April 20. Some students opted to continue distance learning through the end of the school year, and those who returned are on a hybrid model.

For now, only senior students at Pioneer Valley High School, Santa Maria High School, Ernest Righetti High School, and Delta High School have the option to be on-campus part time, and the model will be evaluated on a weekly basis to make sure things are operating safely and smoothly.

ROOMERS AND ZOOMERS With some Santa Maria Joint Union High School District seniors opting to return to campus while others are staying home, in-person students can see their virtual peers on their school-administered laptops. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA MARIA JOINT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA MARIA JOINT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT
  • ROOMERS AND ZOOMERS With some Santa Maria Joint Union High School District seniors opting to return to campus while others are staying home, in-person students can see their virtual peers on their school-administered laptops.
“We just wanted to see how it goes … to bring the students back in the safest way possible,” district Public Information Officer Kenny Klein said. “As the environment becomes safer, I’d like to have all the kids back, to give students an opportunity to come back, but when it’s safe to do so. We’re evaluating the ninth through 11th graders on a weekly basis for an opportunity to return.”



Klein said he is cautiously optimistic for the possibility, but can’t say for certain if other grade levels will be able to return to campus this school year, which ends on June 10. How things play out for the returning seniors will impact the district’s decisions for other grades down the road, he said.

Under the current hybrid model, all students are on Zoom on Mondays. Seniors who want to be on campus are broken up into two groups based on their last names, with half on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other half on campus Wednesdays and Fridays.

Klein said that Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria, and Righetti high schools each had roughly 170 to 200 seniors back on campus Tuesday, out of the 500 to 600 students in each school’s graduating class. Delta High School is much smaller, with about 200 total seniors this year.

“If the numbers were to stay the same today, then we would have nearly 400 of the 600 back,” Klein estimated for each of the three district high schools, indicating that about a third of students opted not to return to campus for the hybrid model. However, he said, these numbers could change over the upcoming weeks.

In one image shared by the district, in-person students attend class seated at least six feet apart on their tablet screens while the distance students attend via Zoom.

“I thought yesterday was very inspiring and promising at the campuses,” Klein said on April 21. “The kids were just so excited to see their friends, to talk to their teachers face to face. Even though the classroom sizes are smaller and they were separated out, they were just so happy.” Δ

—Malea Martin

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