A slide featured on the district’s board meeting aimed at encapsulating the community’s sentiments to the new normal. (Graphic Courtesy of CUSD)
A slide featured on the district’s board meeting aimed at encapsulating the community’s sentiments to the new normal.

Graphic Courtesy of CUSD

Editorial: On the approval of distance learning 2.0+

September 25, 2020

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.”

A+photo+illustration+of+a+few+comments+from+The+Lancer+Link%27s+school-wide+survey+on+the+impending+return+to+school.

Graphic by Jason Kanetakis

A photo illustration of a few comments from The Lancer Link’s school-wide survey on the impending return to school.

Editorial: On the return to school

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees voted in favor of implementing Distance Learning 2.0 “Plus.” Though this might seem like old news, the reality is that this new plan went into effect just over 10 days ago. At this Wednesday’s special board meeting, a fatigued and seemingly panicked school board could renege on the promises made during that September meeting and set up a return to school four days after Thanksgiving.

The promises of that September meeting, a continuation of Distance Learning until the new semester but with ample activities taking place on campus, handed wins to everyone. Parents would see their kids come and go from 3557 Lancer Way once again, students would get to experience our campus, and teachers would be able to see their students but not have to create lessons for hybrid learning, which is more time consuming and creates issues if quarantine is required. 

In our previous editorial, we stated that we stood by this plan. It allows us to live with the new normal set on us by a pandemic that has now killed twice as many Americans as there are residents of Carlsbad. Our world is a grizzly one. We have lost enough Americans to wipe our city off the map, roughly two times over.

We have lost enough Americans to wipe our city off the map, two times over.”

This past weekend, the US broke its own record for most new cases in a single day, and while California is not the main contributor to this resurgence, the actions of this school board, egged on by the loud voice of a small minority, only express a desire for us to join that resurgence, despite the fact that we are already on the verge of being moved to the restrictive purple tier.

Our neighbor, Vista Unified School District, went back to school on Oct. 20. The result? After only five school days, two Mission Vista students tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 300 high school students and eight staff members are quarantined for 14 days. Another two Vista students, one at a middle school and one at an elementary school, also tested positive this week. In total, 340 students and 17 teachers have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and are now quarantined and isolated from instruction. 

Why would we want this same educational disruption in Carlsbad? Who wants to quarantine alone, in a room, for two weeks? Even kids go through some of the symptoms of COVID-19, does anyone want to volunteer to go through their current workload with a fever and exhausting fatigue? 

We understand the feelings of students and parents who want to get out of the house again, who want to see friends even from a distance, who want to pretend like COVID-19 is over – we do too. The power of “normal” and the desire to go back to our regular lives is an overwhelming one, but the desire to go back to school now, without the full range of protective measures we need, will only prolong how long it takes to go back to that normal life. And, we already have a plan in place that allows us to go back on campus, to see friends from a distance, to work with our clubs, sports and other co-curriculars.

On Sept. 23, the board voted 5-0 in favor of Distance Learning 2.0 Plus, and to hopefully return to school at the start of the new semester. There is nothing wrong with that decision. This new push to open schools after Thanksgiving in an A/B cohort structure where six feet of distancing is not possible is ill-advised and only happening because of the aforementioned minority pressuring the board.

In order to represent the CHS student voice, The Lancer Link conducted a survey, representative of the Carlsbad High population, to see what course the board truly should take. Hint: it’s the one they voted on one month ago.

We know that families will be congregating and traveling during Thanksgiving break and alumni will be coming home from colleges across the country. Returning to in-person school after the semester ends – rather than halfway through – will make transitioning less stressful and safer for students and teachers.

We also know that 72% of students surveyed feel comfortable returning to school with six feet of distancing; a measure which can be in place for a January return. A measure which is just as important as wearing masks.

Meanwhile, just 52% of students feel the same way with three feet between them and their peers. In addition to that big drop in support, it is important to note that three feet of distance is not effective in preventing contact with the virus. The CDC still recommends keeping at least 6 feet of distance from people not in your household. If anything, three feet of distancing is more of a placebo than we should be comfortable with, and its bare majority support is only going to cause more controversy, protests and tension in our schools.

60% of respondents reported that they do not believe their peers will follow safety precautions on campus. Currently, only 14% of students believe their peers are consistently following CDC recommendations off-campus.”

Safety is another concern of the student body. Many students, 60% of respondents, reported that they do not believe their peers will follow safety precautions on campus, and currently, only 14% of students believe their peers are consistently following CDC recommendations off-campus.

A scarily low number, 43% of students, believe their peers will actually stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, something which poses a grave risk to the safety of our school community. And with the Vista school district as a real-life example, there is no way to know you have the virus until you’ve almost certainly spread it. 

Going back to school after Thanksgiving under a cohort system would also mean that students will get just 90 minutes of teacher facetime per week, in contrast to the current 180 minutes students get in the distance learning model. Only 37% of students believe such a return to school is worth it if facetime with our teachers is cut in half.

That 37% is the lowest level of agreement out of every question asked in our poll. Yet, that is what will happen if the board approves such a plan this Wednesday. A decision to go back to school after Thanksgiving will go against a supermajority of students. Students, which if forced to go back, will be the ones responsible for spreading the virus to the vulnerable in our community.

 Additionally, 32% of respondents live with at-risk family members at home, in addition to roughly 6% of respondents that are high risk for COVID-19 themselves. Young people are not immune to this virus and they do not live in a vacuum void of older family members. 

Student survey respondents expressed concern that a return to school would overwhelm their teachers, their security staff, their janitors – all members of our Carlsbad community who deserve consideration in this decision. Parents have been vocal about their wish for students to return to school, and their voices matter in this decision. But at the end of the day, they will not be the ones going back to school. 

As the Editorial Board of the Lancer Link, we urge the Carlsbad Board of Trustees to continue the Distance Learning 2.0+ model until the end of the semester, and until precautionary measures, like six feet of social distancing, are put in place. We are already on the brink of being moved to the purple tier of COVID-19 restrictions (which would resemble May-type restrictions), and the country is in the midst of a resurgence in cases predicted to only get worse with Thanksgiving. Going back after this holiday is the worst possible decision that can be made.

Distance Learning 2.0+ allows for the best possible scenario: the opportunity to see peers on campus and keep potential exposure, worry, sickness and death as minimal as possible. If we prove able to work together in small and safe steps, we will quickly find ourselves in a second semester return to campus where life begins to look a little more like “normal.”

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8 Comments

8 Responses to “Editorial: On the approval of distance learning 2.0+”

  1. Sokratis Kanetakis on September 25th, 2020 1:50 pm

    Very well said, congrats Editorial crew!

  2. Heather Gearing on September 25th, 2020 3:19 pm

    Very well written piece!! Great job Editorial Board!

  3. Jorge Espinoza on September 25th, 2020 3:58 pm

    This is a great piece and it echos my feelings as well. This is a step in the right direction. Small groups following simple guidelines will show that we can live through this pandemic. Things are going to get better, but it requires all of us to work together. I am so happy to read that the editorial board is thinking critically and seeing how we can make progress towards moving to a new normal.

  4. Becky Wentland on September 25th, 2020 5:03 pm

    Kudos, editorial board. What a reasoned, well-balanced take on a topic that people feel passionately about right now! Whenever I read the writing of our talented students, I feel hopeful about the future. Nice job.

  5. John Marshall on September 25th, 2020 5:33 pm

    Thank you for this well written editorial. We all desire the same outcome, a return to normalcy, but may disagree on the path there. This was a great reminder that no matter your beliefs today, we will be one community again, hopefully soon.

  6. Alycia Sutton on September 25th, 2020 5:55 pm

    Very well-thought-out and we’ll-written article by the most mature students in the age group we parents are trying to advocate for. The kids will be ok if their parents show support for DL 2.0 plus.. Instead of be divisive, we need to work together to ensure that all middle school and high school students join a school club, any club, even if it’s just a study group with students in the same grade level. I support the school board’s decision to methodically transition back into full-time, 5-days a week with this age group. Let’s get these clubs going so our kids can get back to some “normalcy”! Let’s get them back on campus, in-person, with their friends and classmates, in a small group and safe environment.

  7. JoanneHaeussinger on September 26th, 2020 11:58 am

    Bravo! A great example of journalistic excellence, thoughtfully and brilliantly written. The macro lens perspective with which you examine this topic, the selflessness you so clearly demonstrate, and the compassion you have for your community and teachers brought tears to my eyes as I was reading. You are the future of our great nation, and after reading this, I am reassured that we are headed along a good path. Thank you.

  8. Jacqueline S Roberts on September 28th, 2020 7:27 pm

    So proud of The Lancer Link journalism students for their mature thinking and writing excellency. They also should be commended for their knowledge of and respect for science. As a grandmother, it gives me hope that this new generation will make a positive impact upon our country and world!

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