Santa Ana High Schools Prepare for a Different Start to the School Year

This+was+the+first+day+of+school+welcome+mural+for++the+2019-2020+school+year+created+by+GFHS+Associated+Body+Students.+Picture+taken+August+12%2C+2019

Courtesy of Joyce Feuerborn

This was the first day of school welcome mural for the 2019-2020 school year created by GFHS Associated Body Students. Picture taken August 12, 2019

Wendy Rodriguez, New Editor-in-Chief

For incoming junior, Jasmine Delgado, she’s a mess when it comes to organization. Going to a high school that is online only, is not helping.

As August 17, 2020, quickly approaches, Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) is preparing for a different start to the new school year: a completely online learning experience due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the city of Santa Ana and across the United States.

For Delgado, fulfilling her community service hours and making her resume look good is what she needs help with as the school year starts.

“Before the pandemic, I planned to volunteer and participate in activities that would help me stand out for colleges, but now volunteer options are much more limited,” said Delgado.

As schools go online, many things are limited due to the pandemic.

The administration at Godinez including Principal Jesse Church is working hard and developing a strategic schedule as to how distance learning will take place for students.

As the principal, Church said that the most challenging part of transitioning to online learning is irritation, “because I can’t help everyone’s level of frustration with the technology.” 

Church explained that in situations like these, people tend to give up and he definitely doesn’t want students, parents, and staff to give up. 

All schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) developed different schedules that plan to meet the needs of their students.

At Godinez, the distance learning structure will be known as synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning is live instruction; it’s teaching and learning that happens together at the same time via video conferencing. 

Asynchronous learning happens before and after school hours known as office hours and tutoring. During this time, students access learning at separate times and may work at their own pace through Canvas and Google Classroom.

Once the school year starts, students will be invited from their teachers to join their class on Canvas, a course management system, which supports online learning and teaching. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class. 

Godinez’s bell schedule remains the same with a start of 8:00 a.m. and an end at 2:45 p.m. 

Here is the daily schedule that Godinez students will follow for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Screenshot taken from the school’s website. (Courtesy of Administration at Godinez)

But the class schedule is different. It is a block schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays, students will attend odd number periods (1, 3, 5) and even days (2, 4, 6) Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Each class, during block-schedule will be 80 minutes long with 15 minutes breaks between classes. Lunch is an hour everyday. 

On Fridays, students will attend 40 minute periods with breaks and the one hour lunch.

Everyday in the mornings before the live instruction takes place, students will have asynchronous learning for an hour from 8:00-9:00 a.m. There will also be office hours after school for 30 minutes from 2:15-2:45 p.m. 

Lunches will be distributed at each school site and then, as the district checks the numbers and the popularity of individual sites, they will decide whether to change lunch distribution sites or not. 

As for the longer breaks, Church understands that students will get tired easily after being in their work spaces for 80 minutes and he has to be “sensitive because many students have two to three siblings at home and you may have your parents working at home as well,” said Church.

Teachers will have the choice to work from home or come to campus and teach in an empty classroom. 

The decision for making the schedule comes from state guidelines that students must have 240 minutes of instruction daily. 

Church expects teachers to be available to meet the academic needs of all of their students and for students to complete their work. 

“Failure is not an option. If they [students] need help, they must ask. That’s why I’m here. Students can always communicate with one of the administrators or their counselors,” said Church. 

“When everything is suddenly done and when people start talking about who did it right, I expect for that school to be Godinez,” added Church.

New assistant principal at Valley High School, Leonor Delaguila, said that the most challenging part of this transition is “identifying a starting point.” 

She said, “It is understandable to feel this anxiety and/or frustration with the ongoing changes, but in order to learn we have to be able to try and not worry about making mistakes.”

Similar to Godinez’s schedule, Delaguila said that Valley will be on block scheduling and abide by the 240 min. of synchronous learning required by the state. However, on Monday, all six periods will be held, so teachers and students can build relationships. 

Delaguila added that Valley created a series of micro lessons explaining the expectations for success. Some expectations are having the camera on during the video conferences, being dressed appropriately, and their microphone is muted unless told otherwise. 

We have to expect that things will be different and we all need to have a little extra patience and flexibility for each other.”

— Teacher Joel Medina

The ultimate goal for students is to provide them with the most innovative and rigorous academic experience, which will prepare them for the future. Teachers will be provided with training to accommodate the different learning styles for students.

“Distance learning will nurture these unexplored areas and enable students to flourish both academically and personally,” said Delaguila.

Many students and teachers at Godinez are preparing for the start of the school year in a variety of different ways. 

English teacher, Joel Medina, became a student again this summer to prepare for the upcoming school year. For Medina, it felt like the first year of teaching all over again because he ordered books on teaching virtually and attended virtual teacher workshops.

“I want my students to know that I’m here for them and that they can take risks and learn in my class. Together, we can all get through this,” said Medina.

The most challenging part for Medina is not having a physical classroom to meet students each day.

 Medina regularly has discussions with students working with partners in a classroom setting, so it will be difficult for him to get used to distance learning.  

“We have to expect that things will be different and we all need to have a little extra patience and flexibility for each other. This is uncharted territory and we are all learning as we go,” Medina added.

After a long break, some students are feeling the sting of returning to school virtually after an uneven virtual learning experience this past spring. 

For junior, Maritza Jacobo, she decided to not buy school supplies; instead, she is reusing what she already has. 

A screenshot of English Department Head Suzanne Pruden’s Canvas homepage. Canvas is what many teachers with be using to connect with their students when they start teaching next week. (Courtesy of Suzanne Pruden)

Jacobo is scheduled to take four advanced placement classes along with one honors class. She said that she does keep a planner with her because it helps her stay organized by writing down the tasks that she has to complete. She has a desk at home where she can limit herself from distractions and concentrate on her school work. 

“The most challenging part about distance learning is I’m going to be a junior and from what I hear, it is difficult and important, so it will be hard not being able to be in a classroom interacting with my teachers and peers,” said Jacobo. 

Over the summer, English department chairperson, Suzanne Pruden,  took a course on Canvas, worked with Google apps, learned more about EdPuzzle and other programs, re-worked her AP syllabus, and brainstormed with other teachers across the country in order to get prepared for the school year. 

Pruden plans on teaching her classes from home because it is the best option in order to better support her students and help other teachers. 

Last year, students had difficulty with a combination of factors such as finding a quiet workplace and dealing with family issues including for many sudden unemployment during a global pandemic, and even though these challenges might still be present, she said, “the students and staff of Godinez are some of the most resilient, dedicated people I have seen.” 

Pruden mentioned that in the last three months of school this past year, her students were successful. They did everything as a class to prepare for the AP exam such as daily Zoom meetings, review videos, and constant feedback to them. 

In May, more of her students scored with the top score of a five on the AP English Language and Composition Exam, than in Godinez’s history. 

For the first week of school, Pruden has a poetry lesson to not only get to know her students and understand how they work, but through these assignments, she will get to know them as writers. In the first few weeks, she hopes students will learn that she is always there and that an English course isn’t just a box to check for completion. 

“We go on a journey together throughout the year, and I am eager to get that started,” said Pruden. 

She added, “it is important that we are all patient with one another and that we ask for additional help when we need it.”

When Delgado first heard about starting the school year completely online, she worried about how her classes would work, especially choir.

Now, she is “excited to see how everyone can be creative and make these classes work and be just as fun as in person,” said Delgado. 

As staff and students get ready for the start of the new school year virtually, the hope is to move forward. 

“It’s not going to be perfect, but we are going to be better than everybody else,” said Church.