FJUHSD pushes back date for returning to on-campus learning to no earlier than Oct. 5

The+sun+sets+on+the+Sunny+Hills+campus+on+May+28%2C+the+last+day+of+school+in+the+2019-2020+school+year.+Because+of+Fullerton+Joint+Union+High+School+District%E2%80%99s+Sep.+3+announcement%2C+students+whose+parents+signed+them+up+for+Cohors+A+or+B+will+not+arrive+back+on+campus+until+Oct.+5+at+the+earliest.

Andrew Ngo

The sun sets on the Sunny Hills campus on May 28, the last day of school in the 2019-2020 school year. Because of Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s Sep. 3 announcement, students whose parents signed them up for Cohors A or B will not arrive back on campus until Oct. 5 at the earliest.

Alice Shin

With Orange County coronavirus cases no longer spiking as they were in the summer, state officials have allowed schools to re-open for live, in-class instruction as early as Sept. 22, though Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] campuses — including Sunny Hills — will do so no earlier than the first full week of October.

“A new blueprint for business sector reopening was unveiled by [California] Governor [Gavin] Newsom on August 28, 2020, which includes a color-coded, tired system that will use two metrics to measure the novel coronavirus,” wrote superintendent Scott Scambray in a Sept. 3 email to staff, students and parents. “In light of this new information, and to ensure the safe reopening of our schools and to provide our staff, students and families the time needed to transition from distance to hybrid learning, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District will reopen no sooner than October 5, 2020.”

Many of the district’s stakeholders applauded Scambray’s decision to remain cautious in reopening classrooms for the next mode of instruction, commonly referred to as the “hybrid learning” model in which smaller groups of students come to campus no more than two days a week. In this same situation, parents have the option to keep their children at home to receive distance learning instruction.

Senior Jason Thomson, whose parents signed him up to come to campus for live instruction, believes everything should be safety first and is fine with the delay of reopening Sunny Hills.

“Schools should open [eventually] because Lancers are aware of the risks of the pandemic, so if we did reopen, everyone would wear a mask and be cautious, so I think Sunny Hills should be fine,” Thomson said. “I’m most looking forward to the in-person interactions of seeing people and talking without needing headphones or a speaker.”

English teacher Randy Oudega said he agrees with the district’s decision to push back the reopening date instead of rushing toward a Sept. 22 one, especially since a previous Aug. 21 email from Scambray had initially set a reopening date for the week after Labor Day weekend.

“I really miss joking around with the students or even just saying, ‘Hi,’ and making small talk,” Oudega said. “I think everyone is disappointed that we’re not back at school, and we don’t have kids [on campus], but I think it was probably the best decision, and it’s probably the safest situation.”

PTSA executive board president Nivie Jhawar, whose children are senior Jaten and sophomore Mia attending Sunny Hills, is among the parents who have signed up for students to attend live instruction during hybrid learning.

“Given the current health situation, I feel more comfortable that the district didn’t rush right into sending the kids back to school,” Jhawar said. “[However,] I think there is definitely something to be said about having face-to-face contact with the kids and the accountability that the kids feel when they’re in front of the teacher vs. sitting at home in front of a screen.”

The superintendent’s Sept. 3 email introduced Newsom’s new color-coded and four-tiered system unveiled Aug. 28 for all counties in the state based on the coronavirus’ spread rate and test positivity percentage.

Originally when the governor ordered all educational institutions to remain closed, he had outlined a plan in which live classroom instruction can occur in schools so long as the counties in which they reside can remain off the state’s COVID-19 watch list for two consecutive weeks.

It was as that point was nearing for some counties that Newsome introduced a new plan, superseding the one introduced over the summer. 

Now, all counties must remain at each tier for a minimum of 21 days, and the four color-coded tiers include purple (widespread), red (substantial), orange (moderate) and yellow (minimal with the lowest restrictions). Orange County has moved to the red level as of Sept. 8, which allowed for more ease of restrictions such as dining in at restaurants and movie theater reopenings.