In an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic, Sunny Hills will remain closed through May 1; until then, students will continue their education through distance learning, Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] superintendent Scott Scambray announced March 19.
“This is a fluid situation and FJUHSD is working to provide our community with the most current and clear guidance,” according to a 3:38 p.m. emergency, written announcement via Aeries from Scambray. “Though the Governor speculated about the potential timeline for the reopening of schools, our current plans remain in place. We will update you with information as it becomes available.”
The superintendent was referring to a March 17 Los Angeles Times online article in which it describes California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus pandemic assessment that California public schools will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year.
Upon consoling one of his daughters March 16, the Times article quotes Newsom as saying, “‘Honey, I don’t think the schools are going to open again.’ And if I could tell my daughter that, and not tell your daughter that, or the people, then I’m not being honest or true to the people of the state of California. Boy, I hope I’m wrong.”
As of March 18, Orange County has 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus victims; 19 in the state have died and an additional 958 have tested positive for the disease — including two Los Angeles Lakers players.
The district had planned to allow students to return to their classrooms after spring break on March 30 when it first sent out a school closure announcement March 13.
Starting March 30, students will continue to follow their current bell schedules, and teachers must be available online during the regular daily instructional periods, according to Scambray’s letter to the FJUHSD community.
Meanwhile except for spring break, Sunny Hills will continue to provide packaged, to-go food weekdays to those who qualify for free and reduced meals from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until May 4.
In the announcement, Scambray reiterated that all school events, field trips, athletics and activities are canceled or postponed until further evaluation on May 1.
Prior to Scambray’s announcement, Sunny Hills principal Allen Whitten spoke with The Accolade during fifth period via a Zoom meeting online and gave his assessment of the impending extended closure.
“I want to make sure that we have our graduation ceremony, but yesterday when Cal State Fullerton announced that they were [postponing] their graduation, it did start to creep in — the idea of not having it,” Whitten said. “I don’t know what that would look like. I think between now and then, we will think of the best way we can still celebrate that accomplishment, award the diploma and comply with all of the suggestions or regulations or recommendations by our health organizations.”
The Rotary 100 event, in which the Top 100 students at Sunny Hills are recognized for their academic excellence, was supposed to be held March 19, but it was canceled. Whitten hopes to incorporate those recognitions into the Lancer Night awards ceremony on May 20 at 6 p.m. should the ceremony be allowed to occur.
“I really, really do not want to cancel Lancer awards; we’re gonna hold on as long as we can, and we’ll fold [Rotary 100 awards] in,” the principal said. “That will just be more recognition that students receive on that one night. … Worst case scenario, if we had to cancel the awards night, I guess we would give kids their certificates outside of a group setting. I don’t know what that would look like; that kind of takes the fun out of it, but students will still get their recognition.”
Though the California Disneyland theme park has remained closed since March 14, Whitten referred questions about seniors’ Grad Nite there to the PTSA.
The Accolade staff will continue to update its online news website regarding any other events that are canceled and have reached out to the PTSA for comment.
Senior DJ Casta said he was concerned about the possibility of prom and graduation being canceled but felt indifferent about other senior events.
“What a time it is to be a senior,” Casta said. “Honestly, I’m fine with some events being canceled fully. Most of them are just things you can do in your own time, like having breakfast with friends [Senior Breakfast]. If graduation doesn’t happen, I would want it to be moved to some other date since graduation is really special. … I’m pretty sure a lot of seniors would be down for it.”
As of now, it remains up to district and state health officials to determine whether to conduct a commencement ceremony on May 28, Whitten said.
If that were to be canceled, Whitten hopes he can still work out a way to recognize seniors.
“We’ll start thinking of ideas, and you guys start thinking of ideas, too,” he said. “[A teacher] just mentioned doing the awards ceremony on Zoom; maybe that’s a good idea? Think about alternate plans in case that happens.”
As students return from spring break March 30, the principal said he’s confident that students and teachers will be able to adapt to an extended distance learning period.
“[I just want to] acknowledge how hard everyone is working — students and teachers — in making [online learning] happen,” Whitten said. “I think it’s really unique, really special, and I don’t think a lot of school districts in the country could pull this off, but here we are, FJUHSD, not just doing remote learning, but doing it in a really impressive way. With high levels of participation from the students, high levels of teaching from the teachers.”
Though the state is no longer holding the FJUHSD accountable for student attendance for its average daily attendance funding, the principal said it’s still important for students to check in with their teachers via Google Classroom.
“These assignments are part of a grade, and we do expect our students to be logging in and keeping up with their schoolwork,” Whitten said. “If a student’s grade is going to go up because they’re logging in every day and doing the work, then great. But if the student’s grade is going to suffer because they’re not logging in, accessing the information and doing what we expect them to do — which is continue to learn — then they can receive deduction in points and possible grade ramifications from that.”
Some, like freshman Vedant Pipalia, said they feel more motivated from online schooling after having gone through it the past three days.
“I feel the same about online schooling,” Pipalia said. “I feel a bit more motivated because I am getting better sleep at night.”
Pipalia even took a math test online, adding that the process was no different from regular attendance in his classes.
“It was good,” he said. “It was open book. The process was the same as we would have done in class, nothing different.”
To any seniors or families in the Lancer community, Whitten said he would do everything he could to maintain Sunny Hills traditions like prom, the Paper Toss, toga senior class spirit day and graduation.
“If we have a way, we will do everything we can to make these things happen [in May],” Whitten said. “If it’s important to our students, then it’s important to us, so we don’t want to cancel things willie nillie … If there’s a way we can salvage any of these traditions or events or activities that are important to our families, we will.”