Santa Ana Unified School District Board Announces That Distance Learning is the Norm for the Rest of the School Year

A photo from the mostly virtual SAUSD School Board meeting who met on March 23, 2021, to decide on students' fate in the classroom or online at home for the rest of this school year.

Wendy Rodriguez

A photo from the mostly virtual SAUSD School Board meeting who met on March 23, 2021, to decide on students’ fate in the classroom or online at home for the rest of this school year.

We are disappointed, but not surprised. 

On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) school board hosted a meeting to address plans for K-12 students returning to school. Santa Ana is one of the only cities in Orange County that has not sent its students to participate in on-campus learning for this school year. 

Orange County has been hit very hard by COVID-19, with the city of Santa Ana the hardest hit, and daily cases that reached over 4,000 back in December. These numbers have decreased since then, but safety is a huge concern for everyone involved.

The board viewed a presentation given by a few district staff regarding the safety of returning to campus, and then decided it would be best to continue with their current plan—keep students in distance learning at home. This means that the only students who will be on campus are those who need the resources of learning labs.

This system will help students who are falling behind in their online classes. District staff claimed they would increase the number of students in the program to at least 3,000 students by April 12 which is equivalent to about 6% of students. Because of the new Centers of Disease and Control Prevention guidelines of three feet of social distancing, the number of students in learning labs can grow.

From left to right, President Rigo Rodriguez, Member Valerie Amezcua, Clerk Alfonso Alvarez, Superintendent Jerry Almendarez, Member John Palacio, and Vice President Carolyn Torres pose in the room where meetings take place. (Courtesy of SAUSD’s website)

The following day, our newsroom discussed the board’s final decision to keep SAUSD schools closed through June. Admittedly, all of us were not so surprised about the latest news, but we are disappointed since the district has made plenty of promises that we would be in class sooner or later. What’s even more upsetting is that we also discussed senior graduation and how some seniors are expecting activities to be canceled altogether.

Journalist and senior Mercedes Barriga said, “I’m not honestly shocked or anything. I think lots of us expected this.”

Many students at Godinez have gotten used to the routine of having class via Zoom or Google Meets, so the hope of returning and having a little bit of normalcy was already out of reach. 

“All I want is just to see and have some fun with my friends. I want to have good memories,” added Barriga. 

All I want is just to see and have some fun with my friends. I want to have good memories.”

— Mercedes Barriga

Seniors in our newsroom were disheartened that our only hope of having a final interaction with our friends and staff are the “senior activities.” And even then SAUSD’s Board of Education did not expand on their plans for these opportunities.

Graduation is a burning topic that was repeatedly mentioned during our class discussion. This ceremony was promised to us ever since we were kids, one day we would be a part of the tradition to flip our tassel from right to left, throw our caps up in the air, and hug our families after we were done. 

This is nearly impossible now, and most of us seniors look for some beam of hope that we will celebrate our achievements from the major part of our lives. 

As a newsroom, we agreed that we want the board to keep their intentions of providing us with a chance to see our friends and to have a “semi-normal” graduation. Our seniors are exhausted, and we need a chance to feel some normalcy before we leave for college. 

“I like the idea of having activities for seniors because they are the ones who I think really need it,” said journalist and sophomore Elizabeth Perez. 

We found a middle-ground and a mutual understanding that if anyone was a priority, it would be the seniors on our campus.

Although this decision was probably for the best, we still feel saddened and heartbroken that we’ll be continuing to do online-learning for the rest of this semester.  

It’s also worth mentioning that some families are also disappointed with the board’s vote. In fact, many of them are so furious, they are moving their kids in other surrounding districts in order to get them into a classroom learning enviroment. 

Although there is negativity surrounding the Board’s decision to keep students at home, we should focus on the positives. Health and safety is always a priority, and we still have the rest of our lives to experience the milestones we have missed out on. 

Our final year at high school may have been taken away from the senior class, but we will always have the memories of the other years.

We should take this as an opportunity to grow and appreciate the small but beautiful parts of our life.

And some cool senior activities to lessen the pain wouldn’t hurt.