Image used with permission from Fullerton Joint Union High School District
The rise in COVID-19 delta variant cases at the start of the 2021-2022 school year is among the reasons for Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] officials to spend nearly $75,000 to renew their one-year contract with Zoom, according to a report submitted to trustees for review in their last board meeting.
The request to approve the contract was among the consent calendar items that the trustees approved unanimously on Sept. 14.
According to the report, the funding will come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief [ESSER] fund, which authorizes state educational agencies to distribute subgrants to local educational agencies to address the impact of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary schools.
“Due to the return to in-person learning the district originally planned to move away from Zoom for the 2021/22 school year,” according to the report. “Now with the increase in the COVID-19 Delta variant and the need for parent meetings along with back-to-school nights needing to be streamed, Zoom has become a much needed program again for this school year.”
The renewed contract — which will last from Aug. 24, 2021 to Aug. 23, 2022 — gives the FJUHSD licenses for all teaching staff along with two webinars for streaming purposes, according to the report.
At the beginning of the school year, FJUHSD administrators had informed teachers to use Google Meet for virtual meetings since the district already pays for the Google suite of services.
However, before the Aug. 31 Back to School Night at Sunny Hills, principal Allen Whitten told department leaders that the district changed its mind about Zoom.
Many teachers agreed with the district’s move to make Zoom available again.
“I think while COVID is still happening, I understand the necessity of having to err on the side of caution,” English 2 Honors teacher Thomas Butler said. “We don’t want to go back to distance learning, but if we do, we can’t afford to lose time reactivating [Zoom] contracts.”
Butler was one of the few teachers who provided a Google Meet or Zoom link for parents who either could not make it to Back to School Night in person or who felt safer to stay at home.
He created a separate Google Classroom for the event so that parents could easily access his online link.
“It was not an interactive [online] meet,” Butler said. “Since I had live people in the classroom, I just opened up the Google Meet, had the camera active and left a section where parents could ask questions.”
In regards to teaching online, Butler preferred using Google meet over Zoom to interact with his students; however, he discovered that Zoom was useful for keeping in touch with parents.
“One of the best outcomes of last year was that I was able to have so much more contact with parents,” he said. “I had triple the number of parent conferences last year than I had any time previous in my career.”
Butler found that Zoom allowed him to schedule conference calls at times convenient for both him and the parents, especially since they did not have to meet physically at school.
“There were times where I was driving home and I had my phone on Zoom while [the parent] was at Costco shopping with their kids,” he said. “I like being able to connect more easily by scheduling online meetings so [the parents and I] don’t have to play email tag.”