New 2021-2022 campus health and safety protocols ease anxiety for several students, staff returning for live classroom instruction

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Audrey Seo

Senior Ashley Hoang (left) hands over her spirit wear form to senior Elaine Chu during Lancer Day on Aug. 10. The Aug. 10-released school health and safety guidelines now allow anyone on campus to be mask-free when outdoors.

Susie Kim

Sophomore Benjamin Blodgett had been coming to the Sunny Hills campus for hybrid learning last school year and was well-aware of the school’s health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So when Blodgett first learned from The Accolade about the Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s [FJUHSD] health and safety plan for the reopening of campuses for the 2021-2022 school year, he felt even more at ease to be here on the first day of school Aug. 16.

“I [felt] more reassured after I had heard about the safety plan because many precautions are being taken,” said Blodgett, who described the days in which he had to stay at home to learn last year as dull. “I am happy to see that masks are now optional outdoors because that shows that we are making progress against the coronavirus.”

The sophomore is among many of the Sunny Hills students and staff who are excited about returning to campus even though they still need to answer questions online about their health each school day and are encouraged to enter the campus through a designated spot for temperature checks – all of which FJUHSD officials categorized as “layers of prevention” in their presentation of the safety procedures to the FJUHSD trustees Aug. 10.

Senior Lauren Ahn was also pleased to learn that masks will still be required indoors.

“I think this new system is doing a really good job protecting the Sunny Hills community because it prevents other people from getting [COVID-19],” said Ahn, who had not been on campus for live classroom instruction since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first started.

Despite thinking it would be risky for students to not follow the safety protocols, Ahn said her main reason for returning was to enjoy her senior year to the fullest and to build a stronger relationship with her friends and teachers.

“In person, you can learn better than online learning and receive a better learning experience,” she said. “I highly look forward to all the events and opportunities the school provides for us as seniors, such as Senior Sunrise, school exit privileges, prom and more.”

Unlike Blodgett and Ahn, junior Chearriez Alvarez remains in the minority about feeling anxious about the safety plan. 

“The fact that there is no social distancing and masks are optional outside seems scary, and some people might not follow the regulations,” said Alvarez, who came to campus for hybrid learning the previous school year. “I think those who still do not take COVID seriously will probably be [less careful about masking] when being around others. Thus, making it possible for all of us to go back into online learning.”

After being informed about the safety plan, math and Advancement Via Individual Determination teacher Cristian Bueno did not hesitate to express her approval of it.

“I am really excited to see everyone in person,” Bueno said. “I feel like even if we need to follow all these procedures, it is just nice to be with everyone — to just set the culture back to what Sunny Hills is. 

“I feel that whatever it is we have to do — to make sure that we are safe and we are all here — I am down to do it.”

When she signed up to teach a summer school session, Bueno said she was able to maintain social distancing among her students in her classroom because of the smaller class size, though she placed her desks in rows—unlike her previous years.

“Since class is back to the usual numbers, I have started the year back in groups,” she said. “I have also spent time trying to incorporate some getting-to-know-you activities to really set the tone for safety and collaboration in class.”

While social distancing is no longer mandated, she felt it was valid to get rid of the protocol because it would not be possible to fit all her students in the classroom with the requirement still in place.

“I think students are often eating at break and lunch but even to those who may feel more cautious they can still wear their mask,” Bueno said. “I think having the option provides the opportunity for students to also take a break from their mask, especially after going back to longer periods.”

She does not have any concerns so far because she believes everyone at Sunny Hills knows the expectations and will comply with the protocols once they see everyone else following directions.

VACCINATED YET STILL WARY

Despite already receiving the Pfizer vaccine in April, Alvarez said she has concerns about what would happen if she were to contract the Delta variant of the coronavirus from attending school and then become an asymptomatic carrier who could spread the disease to other family members or relatives who haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

“I know the symptoms may not be as bad compared to if I were not vaccinated, but I think it would definitely take a toll on my family’s health and myself,” Alvarez said.

Ahn said she also got vaccinated in late May but would hope everyone stays cautious, especially outside where masks are not required.

“I still feel the need to wear masks indoors for extra safety and protection, just in case the virus spreads on campus unknowingly,” she said.