SAUSD Prepares to Welcome Staff and Students Back for a Different Kind of School Year


Wendy Rodriguez

From left, senior, Jesse Church Jr. and junior, America Bernabe, work on a welcome back to school poster in the ASB room at Godinez Fundamental High School, on Wednesday, August 11, 2021.

Wendy Rodriguez, Editor-in-Chief

After 18 months of distance learning, the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), prepares to safely reopen schools on Monday, August 16, 2021. 

Superintendent of Schools, Jerry Almendarez, said that the School Board of Education and himself, started planning for some type of reopening ever since COVID-19 closed schools and shifted to online learning March 2020. 

However, with the increase in positive coronavirus cases, the Board had to make the decision to stay in the virtual setting for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year.  

But with the vaccine roll out, there was an increase of hope with the decrease of positive COVID-19 cases within the city of Santa Ana. This allowed the district to open for summer school at Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) along with other campuses and start preparations for a new school year. 

Almendarez said that being open on a smaller scale over the summer was a great opportunity to see how they were able to function while having students and staff on campus.

The whole process for the district has been a wild ride. The district has worked closely with different departments and principals from respective school sites to ensure that everything is set up as safe as it can be.  

“The biggest challenge is how the information changes on an hourly basis. But, we are following science to the best of our ability and when we get the information, we will make the necessary adjustments based on the recommendations that come from the health department,” said Almendarez.  

GFHS junior, Alexander Victoriano, is one of those students who feels comfortable coming back because of his summer school experience. 

Living in a household of seven members, Victoriano had a hard time with online learning.

His summer school experience was different. 

“I felt I could concentrate more in class than at home, the teachers were wonderful, the classrooms were different but they all maintained the social distancing guidelines and everyone wore their mask,” said Victoriano.

He looks forward to seeing his friends and being in the classroom but worries. 

“I am worried about making new friends and getting along with other students because during the lockdown, I was not able to do any of that. So, now that school has reopened, I am nervous about being around people,” added Victoriano. 

The 2021-22 academic school year will look different in comparison to previous years as the district implements new measures, for the safety of the Santa Ana community. 

According to the California Department of Public Health, as a guidance for all K-12 schools, it states that masks will be required by every staff member, student, and visitors at all indoor educational facilities regardless of vaccination status. 

In an outdoor setting, wearing a mask is strongly recommended but not required. In addition, maintaining an appropriate social distance while indoors and outdoors is encouraged by every individual on campus. 

If a student refuses to wear their mask, the response would be for the administration to pull them in to educate them and to discover the reason. By then, the goal is to have some type of understanding and if that is not the case, administrators will work closely with families to consider other options. 

Almendarez said students can expect to see a lot of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in place at school sites including: hand sanitizer dispensers, handwashing sinks, water filtration stations, plexiglass barriers, air purifiers, and masks. Cleaning and nightly disinfection will also play a huge role in school sites.

“​​I look forward to visiting our schools and experiencing the amazing school spirit and culture on each of your campuses,” added Almendarez.

He hopes that students are able to see him around campus more as they are planning on having students fill out survey forms to see if students’ needs are being met.

When there is a confirmed case on campus, the process that the district follows is contact tracing. Each case will involve an investigation to determine the appropriate measures that need to be taken.  

With that said, parents should not send their children to school if they are sick or show any symptoms of sickness. 

GFHS is following all extra measures that the district has implemented. That means, each classroom will have desk shields and air purifiers. Hand sanitizer dispensers and hand washing stations will be available around the sc

The bell schedule that Godinez students and staff will follow for the 2021-2022 academic school year. (Photo Courtesy of Godinez Administration)

hool. Masks will be provided to anyone who forget to bring their own. 

SAUSD recently launched a link with COVID-19 information, resources, and updates on their main webpage which will be updated on a weekly basis. All schools will be listed there and as students come back, they will keep track of positive coronavirus cases, so they can see trends happening.  

The district understands that not all families feel ready nor comfortable to send their children back physically to school. So, SAUSD created the Santa Ana Virtual Academy (SAVA). 

SAVA is a chance for students to continue their education from home. This is being offered to all K-12 students where all subjects are being taught. Over 2,000 families have signed up for this opportunity. 

If students wish to return to on campus learning, they will be able to do so at the end of the trimester or semester without losing their spot at their respective schools. 

All schools in SAUSD are doing their best to execute the new regulations on their campus. 

GFHS assistant principal, Ngoc Tran, said that they have a great team of support staff, custodians, and district security officers that have all contributed to preparing for the upcoming school year. 

“I know it is not a perfect system, but I feel comfortable about the fact that there is a strong effort at our school in trying to keep students safe,” said Tran.

For Tran, the summer school experience made her feel more confident about reopening schools because of all the procedures and protocols that were put into place. There were no widespread infections at any summer school campus in SAUSD. 

For the new school year, the first change students should expect is the new bell schedule. 

In 2019, California became the first state to push back school start times. 

At Godinez, school will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:17 p.m. Unlike online learning where students only attended three classes a day, this year, students will attend all six classes daily with a seven minute passing period.

Senior Carlos Aguilar believes that starting school later is a good idea even though that means getting out later will conflict with people’s extracurricular activities and parents’ schedules. 

“Students will have more time to sleep in, get ready for school, and for those who are late due to circumstances out of their control, they will be able to arrive on time,” said Aguilar. 

Aguilar is excited for the social interactions with people the most but is nervous that the atmosphere may be quiet especially after being away from everyone for so long. 

He added, “As an ASB member this year, I know my fellow members will strive to bring back normalcy into our lives again and it (the campus) will be fun and vibrant as it once was.” 

Tran added that the district hired five more counselors at GFHS for a total of 10 on campus. 

Since Tran arrived at Godinez in July of 2020, she hasn’t had the opportunity to be around students or staff members. 

“I am very excited to meet students and work with staff to develop meaningful relationships with them,” added Tran. 

Tran expects students to keep that academic momentum, but also be patient and mindful with one another as it will take time to adjust to the school environment once again and build a routine. 

Sophomore Fabiola Rodriguez is worried about whether or not she will be able to go back to being the good student she once was. Rodriguez was one of those students who completed all her work on time, studied for tests, and made a huge effort in making sure everything turned out well.

Before the lockdown, Rodriguez received A’s and high B’s.

She is genuinely looking forward to meeting new people–something that she missed out on her freshman year. 

“It’s a little nerve wracking to think about all the new people I will have to meet,” said Rodriguez.

For junior Zoe McFarland, who is fully vaccinated, she is nervous if people will be considerate of others by wearing masks. 

Similar to Rodriguez, McFarland is concerned about being able to get back into her normal routine and find motivation to complete her work. 

“Overall, I am still very excited and can’t wait to go back. I will finally get to see my friends again and just get to experience that in person feeling for the rest of my time in high school,” added McFarland. 

The Associated Student Body (ASB), will host school tours on the first day of school beginning at 7:30 a.m. 

The idea came from ASB President, Joshua Cruz, who said that the purpose of these tours were for incoming freshmen and sophomores to get a first hand look at Godinez.

“I think that this is a great opportunity for them to get to know the campus and perhaps their classes too. So, hopefully this is successful and they get exposure to their second home for the following years,” said Cruz. 

Tran’s advice to students is to ask for help when you need it. 

“Ultimately, you are the protagonist of your own story. Make the right decisions and be your own hero,” added Tran. 

As staff and students prepare to come back to school in person, the hope is to get some sense of normalcy this school year. 

“I encourage the people who are eligible, to get vaccinated because that is the main way to stop this spread from happening and other variants getting created,” said Almendarez. 

Students can get more information on vaccination clinics through their email, social media, by mail, or simply by visiting the SAUSD vaccine resources page.

“Let’s make this a year to remember, and a launching point for greater things to come,” concluded Almendarez. 

For GFHS, it starts on Monday, August 16, at 8:30 a.m.