Many Sunny Hills students who have opted against returning for live instruction this school year during the COVID-19 pandemic plan to come back in the fall for five days a week instead of continuing with online learning.
“I want to go back to Sunny in August when schools fully reopen,” sophomore Clara Kim said. “I say this because not only do I want to see my friends, but it’s better for my mental health and will help me learn the material better.”
Kim said she didn’t want to switch from Cohort C to Cohort A or B this school year because she spent many months on Zoom, and so she believes it would be difficult for her to change the habits she already built up.
Junior Andi Alisaldez also has yet to step foot on campus for any of her classes this school year, but Alisaldez said she has more at stake in the fall for coming to school for live instruction.
“I would prefer to go back to school because it’ll be my last year,” said Alisaldez, who chose Cohort C because it was easier for her crowded schedule. “I want to be able to have a somewhat normal high school experience as a senior.”
A majority of the 132 who voted in The Accolade’s online poll agreed with Kim and Alisaldez. As of May 17, a total of 81% plan to return for live classroom this fall with 14% unsure of what to do.
The minority at 4% voted to consider joining the district’s iSierra Online Academy, while another 2% plan to transfer to another school district that offers a virtual learning option similar to what students are going through in Cohort C.
The transition to a traditional learning model for all Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] campuses was announced as far back as mid-March.
“The district is planning to safely transition to a traditional instructional model of in-classroom instruction five days/week when the school year begins in August,” FJUHSD superintendent Scott Scambray wrote in a March 18 email sent to all district employees, students, parents and guardians. “We will send additional information as plans are developed.”
One of the additional information involved an online learning option through the district’s continuation school, La Sierra High School.
“The iSierra Online Academy, which students will have to enroll in instead of Sunny Hills, is the only distance learning option for the district moving into the next [school] year,” principal Allen Whitten said.
Students interested in that kind of a program would need to notify their counselor or an administrator to sign up, said Whitten, who in an email interview did not give a specific date for when this needs to happen other than “as soon as possible.”
Otherwise, if students want to come to school, they would just update their Aeries profile, the principal said.
No information was available as to how many Sunny Hills students have signed up for the online academy.
But unlike the current distance learning model, iSierra does not provide Zoom meetings; instead, Whitten described it more as a traditional distance learning model.
La Sierra High School principal Sandi Layana offered this description of how iSierra works:
“Students would work with APEX, which is the name of the digital curriculum used in the iSierra Online Academy,” Layana said. “They independently work on the resources provided by APEX for their courses throughout the week, so there is no set bell schedule.”
According to the iSierra Online Academy website, students are given a set day and time to discuss their learning progress with their course instructors once a week or more, depending on how they are doing with their work.
The website states that if students do not complete at least one credit of assigned work by the weekly appointment, they would be considered absent for the whole week, and no excused absences will be available.
Although some Advanced Placement [AP] classes will be offered and taught by AP-experienced teachers, the IB program will not be available for students, Layana said.
According to the iSierra website, https://www.fjuhsd.org/isierra, this alternative education program offers 11 AP classes such as AP U.S. History, AP English Literature and Composition and AP Psychology.
Seniors who end up signing up with iSierra cannot graduate from SH but will instead graduate with La Sierra students, Whitten said.
Layana added, “Students and families interested in the iSierra Online Academy can get more information by contacting me. They can also fill out the interest form attached to the QR code on the iSierra flyer in the school newsletter [from Whitten].”
While sophomore Aadil Siddiqui doesn’t plan to sign up for iSierra, he said he will miss this year’s distance learning model.
“As much as I hate to say it, I’m pretty pessimistic about the reopening of schools next year,” said Siddiqui, who has remained in Cohort C this school year. “I feel like working from home can relieve the stress from the school work a little.”
Those who have been coming to school don’t agree.
“I love the plan to fully reopen,” said junior Dane Soaper, who has been attending in-person school. “I’ve missed going to school with friends and learning in person because it’s a better environment compared to sitting behind a screen all day.”