Returning to the Classroom

9th grader Sierra Golden has enjoyed her time at home, but is ready for in person learning. Katie Gordon is a senior and plays softball for Foothill, posing here at a recent game in Thousand Oaks.

by Amy Brown
Part 1 of 2

When local schools closed down in March of 2020, it happened fast, and it was expected by most to last for a few weeks. Then VUSD announced that Fall 2020 would be 100% distance learning, with the hope to bring back students to the classroom in January 2021. Due in part to recent changes in social distancing guidelines from the CDC and health departments, the Board of Education met on March 28th, 2021 and voted in favor of a model that will allow students currently assigned to a hybrid learning model to return more fully to an in-person experience starting April 12. Students in grades 6-12 beginning on April 26th will return to a full time in-person five days a week schedule through the end of the school year, according to the district. Elementary schools, which have already been open to hybrid learning, will return to a full-time in-person model five days a week on April 12.

How do the students, with a year of not being in the classroom, feel about the news? Sierra Golden had been excited about being in high school much of her young life. “All my friends and I would talk about from kindergarten to 8th grade was looking forward to being in high school,” said the current freshman at Ventura High. Instead, her high school experience started in her bedroom, via computer. “Of course, all of us were excited because we thought we would get to go back quickly, but when reality hit, I was super bummed,” said Golden. “But I’m a homebody; I love being home. But then mental health started becoming a thing,” she said. Golden reports that she realized that some friends started changing–they were getting sad, and not wanting to get out of bed, and that’s when she realized how important it really was to socialize. She says she’s excited about in-person learning. “I haven’t had a chance to be a high schooler, and I’m excited about seeing friends, and I already love all of my teachers.”

Some students had issues keeping their grades up during the past year and can’t wait to get back in the classroom on a normal schedule. Avery Almora is an 8th grader at Balboa Middle School, and said that she struggles with ADD, and that the most difficult part of distance learning is staying focused. “My grades were always good until quarantine happened, and I’m really happy to get back in class and get back on track,” said Almora. “It’s going to be a little difficult, obviously it’s a big change; it’s been a long time since we’ve been in school.  A lot of people didn’t really learn anything, if they weren’t paying attention.” She has been doing a small group twice weekly study hall on campus at Balboa in the meantime that she said has really helped, too.

12th graders lost most of their junior year and all of their senior year so far. No Homecoming, no prom, no face to face with teachers. “I feel really bad for the teachers because it’s so much work on their part,” said Katie Gordon, a senior at Foothill “They’ve had it so rough! No one turns on their cameras, the teachers now have to do both online teaching and in person, but at least they won’t just be talking to blank screens.” Gordon plays center field for Foothill’s softball team, with a truncated season more restricted than other high schools, since they use Ventura College’s fields. That means very few spectators allowed. “It sucks that our parents can’t come to home games,” said Gordon, who plans to major in Political Science and possibly become a lawyer after college.  She says she looks forward to returning to in person learning for what’s left of her senior year. “I feel like if I miss this opportunity, I’d regret it.”

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