6th-11th Grades, back to school on or before Apr. 19

By LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Dr. Dave Ostash, Superintendent of Sierra Sands Unified School District, reports, “At our special board meeting, Tuesday, March 23, The Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution, District Resolution #27. The resolution brings all TK-5th grade elementary students and high school seniors back to school for in-person learning on April 5. The district is developing plans for returning all 6th-11th secondary students back no later than April 19, on or before April 19.”

Ostash adds, “Schools will be reaching out to parents and conducting the registration process so that students will be placed in the either their in-person hybrid schedule or the distance learning schedule as we have made that promise from the very beginning for this academic school year that parents will retain the choice of having their students go back to in-person learning or distance learning.”

“I am so grateful for all of the hard work and all of the teamwork that has marked this journey through this pandemic. The teamwork between staff and students and parents. We’ve maximized our efforts through distance learning and now it will be exciting to see how we integrate new learning methods into our new norm moving forward.”

Kelly Jacotin, Biology, Earth Science, and Conceptual Physics teacher at Burroughs High, has been teaching for 16 years, the last five at Burroughs. Looking ahead to returning to the classroom she is most looking forward to the personal connection with her students. “We have done our best over distance learning to get to know each other, but honestly it is really difficult to make close personal connections on zoom. I am looking to meeting them, getting to provide them with better incentives than I can online. What is she least looking forward to? She laughs, “The thing I am least looking forward to is having to get out of my yoga pants.”

Jacotin emphasizes how much she is concerned about safety, “ I just want to keep us safe. I am hoping that there will be good provisions made for sanitation. I hear that they are going to provide us with additional room cleaning. I hear that some teachers have dividers, plastic sheeting for items on the walls so they can spray disinfect them; they also say they are going to have directional markers on the ground for students when they go from class to class to keep from crossing paths. I am hoping that everyone will be reasonably good at wearing a mask. Of course, wearing a mask all day is inconvenient, but hopefully everyone will get used to it.”

Asked about academic concerns, “I know the district is very worried for students who have not been well-served during distance learning. Those students who do come back in person will have the opportunity to make up for any arrears - to get caught up so they are able to pass strong at the end of the year. We are hoping to reach out to more of those students for whom distance learning just didn’t work and give them a chance to get caught up before the end of the year.” However, they are planning traditional beginning of the school year activities to ease kids back in to the new schedule. “The first few days we are just going to some of regular getting-to-know-you activities that we do at the beginning of the year. I am sure every teacher will start off really easy, ease into it. Make sure everybody knows policies and procedures like how you turn in your work, get to know the other people in the classroom, some icebreaker activities; they haven’t met each other all year.”

Bryce Hill, a 17 year old High School Senior at Burroughs High School is Captain of the Boys Varsity Cross Country team. “This year we have been able to continue to practice together as a team. In the beginning we were forced to practice on our own for safety reason. The past month and a half we have been able to have cross country meets and races with the other teams in our league. We show up in masks, we keep them on when we warm up and stretch, we maintain social distancing.” Masks are removed during the race and put back on for cool-down. After high school Hill will serve a two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Once I return from those two years I am hoping to go to college and run cross country or track and study computer or electrical engineering.”

Hill is very level-headed about returning to in-person learning saying he is probably most looking forward to seeing other people. “Because besides sports most people haven’t been able to see each other normally.” He sees the academic value of being back in the classroom, “I am taking AP Chem this year and we haven’t been able to do any real labs, and that is a big part of the normal curriculum. Just being in a classroom you get more information than just sitting in front of a computer screen trying to learn. It is a different environment, different ways of learning.”

Hill adds, “It has been difficult but I think by now I think most of us have it locked down on how we are getting used to being online. It is good to be back, but it going to be another change. I appreciate the school trying to do everything they can to try to get us back in classrooms.”

Melissa Yoshizu, first grade teacher at Las Flores Elementary School and her daughter, Alina, a fifth grade student at Las Flores are going back-to-school in person on April 5. There is happy anticipation and some nervous concerns, but both are prepared to meet the challenges.

Yoshizu has been teaching for 20 years and has been at Las Flores since 2012. She says, “I am looking forward to seeing my students face-to-face and being able to actually interact with them and not just through a computer screen.. I think I have a pretty good class and we do pretty well interacting together. But they are 6 and 7 years old, and that makes it harder.” Yoshizu is especially looking forward to the craft of teaching which is why she became a teacher explaining, “The art of teaching, which is your own personal style and how you interact with students and build those relationships with them. It is different in every class. No two teachers do it the same. The curriculum may be the same but the presentation of it is totally the style of the teacher.”

Alina is also looking forward to being back in the classroom, “I think I am pretty excited to go back to school. I am excited to meet the people in my class because I don’t know them very well. I know some of them because I knew them last year, but it will be exciting to meet my teacher, Miss Kanehans.”

Yoshizu faces the challenge of teaching first graders who didn’t complete kindergarten and may not have a grasp of how to be a student. “Normally in kindergarten they learn how to walk in a line, they learn the basics of how to be a student, sitting in a seat, taking turns. Those are the kinds of things they would come into first grade knowing already, or having some experience and just need a refresher.” However, she feels that her class has been on track academically, “I feel our team has done a really good job making sure that their phonic skills and their reading skills are in place. Their addition skills, their computation is in place. There is always a swing in ability, but that isn’t different. There may be a wider range in ability because we are not sitting with them and are not able to catch as much.”

Alina’s concerns evolve around meeting new kids, classroom structure, and pandemic safety, “I am little bit concerned about how we will be able to have recess, because recess is a big part of school. And how we are going to react as new kids meeting new kids. New kids meeting new teachers. Where we are going to sit in class. How we are going to eat lunch. If we are going to eat lunch there. There are a lot of worries. I am wondering if we are going to be working on computer with our assignments like we are now or if we are going to get assignments on paper. If we work on paper we are touching the paper, our teacher is touching the paper passing it out to us. And paper isn’t really cleanable. And if we are on our computers, we don’t have to clean it all the time, but if we are on chrome book we will have to clean it and sanitize it.”

When it comes to academics, Alina says, “I would say I have been keeping up with school.” Her mother interjects, “Alina’s ability to focus and work hard is evident in her accomplishments as a ballet student. Dancing since she was three, she was able to study ballet in a COVID safe environment in a cohort and at ten years old is very young to be en pointe.

Yoshizu’s hope for the rest of this school year is, “Make sure that we stay healthy. And that they learn how to be a student before we are back full time, hopefully in the fall, and they have to go to 2nd grade.”

Alina shares, “The pandemic is a little scary because you can’t go anywhere without wearing a mask or getting close to people. My advice would be try to keep in touch with your friends. Keeping in touch with your friends really helps.

Story First Published: 2021-03-26