News

High school families rally for students to return to classrooms

Over 100 people demonstrated outside Sequoia Union's district office Tuesday

Protesters march from the Sequoia Union High School District office to the front of Sequoia High School on El Camino Real to demand the district reopens schools for in-person learning. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After nearly a year of distance learning, about 125 Sequoia Union High School District parents, students and teachers gathered outside of the district office in Redwood City on Tuesday afternoon to urge officials to reopen classrooms once San Mateo County entered the less restrictive red tier. That same day, county officials announced that local conditions had improved enough to allow its move to the red tier starting Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Reopen SUHSD, a group of about 500 district parents, students, teachers and community members that formed several weeks ago, organized the rally, stating that students learn most effectively — and their social, emotional and mental health is best served — by attending school in person. An online petition from the group urging the school board to reopen schools has garnered over 1,600 signatures.

"It is time for the Sequoia Union High School District to follow the science, and bring kids and teachers back to campus safely in the red tier," the group said in a statement.

Menlo-Atherton High School parent Paige Winikoff, a group organizer, said she's frustrated the district doesn't have a plan to reopen. She hoped the rally could promote the group's work.

Impact on students

A new district report, presented at the Wednesday night school board meeting, shows that high school students are struggling academically this quarter. There was a 34% increase in the number of students with three or more D's & F's at the end of the second quarter compared to the same time last year.

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The average freshman GPA dropped from 3.0 to 2.85 during the same period. The second quarter GPA of socioeconomically disadvantaged ninth graders dropped from 2.33 to 1.84.

In October, district officials reported that the percentage of students with more than one failing grade in the fall jumped to 29% from 19.7% in 2019.

Kevin Shvodian, an M-A senior and co-captain of the varsity lacrosse team, said a lot of students have struggled with distance learning. He said physics labs are impossible to conduct over Zoom, so teachers send a video of the lab being conducted. Students don't get to learn or problem solve with this format, he noted.

"It's still just so different from the school we've grown up with for 12 years," he said. "A lot of issues that arise with not being present in the classroom. Most students struggle to stay engaged ... School is designed to foster learning, sitting on the computer screen is nowhere close to that."

Steve Kryger, co-athletic director at M-A, a math teacher at the school and a parent of students who attend public schools in the area, supports students returning to classrooms.

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"From my perspective, there are lots of occupations that have not signed up to get COVID but have gone back to work: bus drivers and grocery workers," he said. "None sign up to die or get sick. The risk is minimal given all of the precautions that are taking place. The benefits are well worth the risk."

Dr. Caroline Krauskopf, a substitute teacher for the small in-person academic support cohort the Sequoia district is holding, said her eighth grader at Corte Madera School in Portola Valley has "blossomed" since returning to school two days a week. In contrast, her son, who is a senior at Woodside High School, has lost his respect for school, finding it difficult to focus on lessons when he "has the internet at his fingertips."

"How much longer are we going to continue to proceed with this system when it really is our youth who are paying the price?" she said. "Who would have thought this would last almost a year?"

Winikoff said that for her son, who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), understanding instructions from someone on a screen you've never met is "painful." She said as an example that he completed assignments but wasn't turning them in because he hadn't attached them online correctly.

"There's already a communications barrier (for students with IEPs) without distance learning,” she said.

Information on the group is online here

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High school families rally for students to return to classrooms

Over 100 people demonstrated outside Sequoia Union's district office Tuesday

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 25, 2021, 10:44 am

After nearly a year of distance learning, about 125 Sequoia Union High School District parents, students and teachers gathered outside of the district office in Redwood City on Tuesday afternoon to urge officials to reopen classrooms once San Mateo County entered the less restrictive red tier. That same day, county officials announced that local conditions had improved enough to allow its move to the red tier starting Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Reopen SUHSD, a group of about 500 district parents, students, teachers and community members that formed several weeks ago, organized the rally, stating that students learn most effectively — and their social, emotional and mental health is best served — by attending school in person. An online petition from the group urging the school board to reopen schools has garnered over 1,600 signatures.

"It is time for the Sequoia Union High School District to follow the science, and bring kids and teachers back to campus safely in the red tier," the group said in a statement.

Menlo-Atherton High School parent Paige Winikoff, a group organizer, said she's frustrated the district doesn't have a plan to reopen. She hoped the rally could promote the group's work.

A new district report, presented at the Wednesday night school board meeting, shows that high school students are struggling academically this quarter. There was a 34% increase in the number of students with three or more D's & F's at the end of the second quarter compared to the same time last year.

The average freshman GPA dropped from 3.0 to 2.85 during the same period. The second quarter GPA of socioeconomically disadvantaged ninth graders dropped from 2.33 to 1.84.

In October, district officials reported that the percentage of students with more than one failing grade in the fall jumped to 29% from 19.7% in 2019.

Kevin Shvodian, an M-A senior and co-captain of the varsity lacrosse team, said a lot of students have struggled with distance learning. He said physics labs are impossible to conduct over Zoom, so teachers send a video of the lab being conducted. Students don't get to learn or problem solve with this format, he noted.

"It's still just so different from the school we've grown up with for 12 years," he said. "A lot of issues that arise with not being present in the classroom. Most students struggle to stay engaged ... School is designed to foster learning, sitting on the computer screen is nowhere close to that."

Steve Kryger, co-athletic director at M-A, a math teacher at the school and a parent of students who attend public schools in the area, supports students returning to classrooms.

"From my perspective, there are lots of occupations that have not signed up to get COVID but have gone back to work: bus drivers and grocery workers," he said. "None sign up to die or get sick. The risk is minimal given all of the precautions that are taking place. The benefits are well worth the risk."

Dr. Caroline Krauskopf, a substitute teacher for the small in-person academic support cohort the Sequoia district is holding, said her eighth grader at Corte Madera School in Portola Valley has "blossomed" since returning to school two days a week. In contrast, her son, who is a senior at Woodside High School, has lost his respect for school, finding it difficult to focus on lessons when he "has the internet at his fingertips."

"How much longer are we going to continue to proceed with this system when it really is our youth who are paying the price?" she said. "Who would have thought this would last almost a year?"

Winikoff said that for her son, who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), understanding instructions from someone on a screen you've never met is "painful." She said as an example that he completed assignments but wasn't turning them in because he hadn't attached them online correctly.

"There's already a communications barrier (for students with IEPs) without distance learning,” she said.

Information on the group is online here

Comments

local teacher
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 25, 2021 at 12:38 pm
local teacher, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Feb 25, 2021 at 12:38 pm

As a local teacher for a private school that has been in person since fall, I cannot underscore enough how much better my students (middle school) are learning in person. Depression and academic regression are very real. We've done our best for distance learning, but the face-to-face connection (including students connecting to each other) is critical. I still have some students DL and it has been hard to juggle both, but I can see the difference in my students' academics as evidenced by reviewing their testing scores. That is to say nothing of their genuine happiness. Our staff is spread thin as we've had to protect those teachers that could not be in person due to being more at risk, but it has been 1 million percent worth it to our students. Hopes and prayers that the rest of our community's students can return in person soon.


Amy H
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 25, 2021 at 3:47 pm
Amy H, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Feb 25, 2021 at 3:47 pm

There's so much good news and all signs point to returning to school...now. Not only has San Mateo County moved to the red tier, teachers are now eligible for vaccines, and CDC guidance has come out saying that with safety measures in place and case rates way above our area's currently, it's safe to return to school. Masking + distancing is as effective as vaccines which is why it's working in every other sector. Let's get our kids back to school where they belong.


local resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 1, 2021 at 9:36 am
local resident, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 9:36 am

So the key here is to safely open up the schools following the science, not how many sign a petition. I understand students are suffering and parents want their children back in schools, as does everybody. But there is nothing in this article about protecting the teachers and staff by vaccination prior to opening the schools. This is an obvious requirement for safe reopening in-person schools.


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