Graphic Courtesy of CUSD

A slide featured on the district’s board meeting aimed at encapsulating the community’s sentiments to the new normal.

Editorial: On the approval of distance learning 2.0+

On Wednesday, Sept. 23 the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees voted in favor of implementing Distance Learning 2.0 “Plus.” The decision was prefaced by protesters outside of the district office, angry Facebook groups and dozens of dissenting comments that were read during the meeting urging for school to go back five days a week. All so that students could work like normal, teachers could plan like normal and life can breathe, like normal. The word normal, has never held such an appeal and certainly has never been at the forefront of so many wishlists.

Normal is not an option. But neither is division.

“We all want things to go back to normal. We all want things to go back to February – pre-COVID – and it’s fair to acknowledge that and it’s fair to honor that. The reality however is that we haven’t gone back to normal and the decisions that we make certainly are not possible to make everyone happy,” is how Superintendent Ben Churchill started the discussion on the proposed high school reopening plans.

To be more succinct: policies can’t be normal when the circumstances aren’t normal.

To those advocating for a full reopening – it’s simple. As the board stated, we would need twice the amount of teachers, $900,000 per student in order to make class sizes acceptably smaller, and even then, going back to school on campus would not look like March 12.

Students and staff would not be freely interacting with one another in large group settings oblivious to the new realities we face. These new realities are not pretty, but they do exist and facing them is necessary. Students would be six feet apart from each other and from teachers who would be unable to see their work and provide help. Students and staff would be wearing masks for the entirety of their time on campus. They would not be able to attend football games, school dances or even the crowded stairs and corridors of the 3000’s building during brunch: a staple of life in a school of 2,358 teens.

These new realities are not pretty, but they do exist and we can’t ignore them. Going backwards to March 12 is not an option — we can only move forward from here into a new model, and Distance Learning 2.0+ is a model built for the new realities of Covid-19.

Echoing Dr.Churchill, it’s fair to acknowledge and honor the desire to return to school. We all unequivocally share that desire. However, on top of being logistically and financially impossible, it is an astonishing example of moral irresponsibility and demonstrates a complete failure of empathy to choose to let our neighbors die for a bite of the high school experience.

We need to protect all members of our Carlsbad community, and that includes the people working in our schools to support students. It should not be ignored that the Distance Learning 2.0+ plan was the only plan supported and recommended by teachers, who all too commonly are left out of our highest considerations and taken for granted. Our teachers are not robots — they are human beings with their own children, navigating education during a pandemic, with their own health concerns to worry about and their own personal challenges.

We are all in the same boat within the same community “by the sea,” and we need to remember the challenges that we’re all going through in order to come out through this with dignity and pride in our community. The support of the teachers is enough reason alone to support this plan.

With students trickling onto campus for clubs and athletics under Distance Learning 2.0+ we can expect to see improved emotional health and increased productivity. That is a big win for freshmen who haven’t stepped foot on campus and seniors who yearn to go back.

Indeed the pandemic has caused a rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide, and perhaps this 2.0+ plan will not bring those numbers back down to normal, but it is the biggest step in the right direction – normalcy – that we can make.

Any way that it can be looked at, this plan does move toward a sense of normalcy and we have to look to that like our North Star.

As the editorial board of the Lancer Link, we fully support the approval of Distance Learning 2.0+ by the board: a plan which recognizes the circumstances the virus has put us in and addresses the torrent of emotional issues staff and students are going through as fully as circumstances allow. As a community, we have to be able to hear each other and build on each other’s concerns in a way that moves us forward, not backward or apart. Civil discourse (which includes protests) is always a must in local politics but at the end of the day, we are just one community that has to value its unity more than its policy.

We know that this virus moves among crowds. We know that districts near us have moved fast to reopen only to fail in staying safe even faster. If we reopen schools now, we will spark an outbreak that will shut our campuses down in their entireties, allowing for zero sports, clubs, teams and activity meetings altogether.

By moving to reopen slowly, we leave the window open for these sports and clubs to steadily increase their presence on campus and for classes and end of the year activities that really matter, events like prom and graduation that mean the world to the class of 2021, to happen. Rushing through reopening and risking making things worse than they currently are will hurt students’ time on campus exponentially. However, we can move both slowly and together, through Distance Learning 2.0+ and beyond so that cases do not rise and life can begin to look more like “normal.”

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