Gilroy schools will continue distance learning in fall

District retracts earlier plan that would have opened campuses

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The Gilroy Unified School District changed course on its reopening plan July 14, and will instead continue with distance learning when the fall semester begins.

The district’s board voted unanimously for the plan, which is set to begin Aug. 12.

Earlier in July, the district presented a plan that would have put many of its students back in the classroom. The initial proposal was to have elementary school students return to class five days a week, with middle schoolers participating in a “hybrid model” that would put them in school two days a week and the remaining three in distance learning.

High school, meanwhile, was proposed to have distance learning five days a week.

Superintendent Deborah Flores said the plan was based off of Santa Clara County Public Health’s school reopening guidance, which said that younger children were less likely to develop severe Covid-19 symptoms.

However, some parents questioned the validity of the county’s report, saying that it didn’t reveal its sources of the studies it cited.

In addition, Flores said a survey of district employees found that most staff indicated they would not feel safe to return to school due to Covid-19. The recent rise in the number of cases and hospitalizations in the county further put to question the feasibility of reopening schools.

As of July 15, 140 people are hospitalized in the county due to Covid-19. A week ago, that number was 104.

“We received a lot of public comments and emails about our proposal,” she said. “We stepped back, reviewed all the input that we received—in particular, the union input that represents most of our staff—and we are now recommending a different plan.”

It is unknown when campuses will reopen. Flores acknowledged that plans could change, and said in a statement to parents that the district will “be prepared to make adjustments when needed in the future.”

Many parents wrote in to the board, seemingly split on the plan to continue distance learning. Most of the comments received were submitted before the district announced its revised plan.

Robert Samdahl said elementary school campuses should remain closed, saying his children’s pediatrician advised them to stay home during the pandemic.

“My children feel unsafe when people around them are not wearing masks,” he wrote. “The district has not done enough to keep my high-risk children safe.”

Janell Wolfe wrote that distance learning affects high schoolers negatively.

“We should be given the choice to choose what is best for our students, our household,” she wrote.

Angelina Di Cairano, an incoming sophomore at Gilroy High School, said she was “very upset” with the plan to keep campuses closed, adding that learning online would not give her the skills needed for college.

“As a straight-A student, I found distance learning very difficult,” she wrote to the board. “I’m sure that students who have had difficulty in the classroom setting have also had a very hard time with distance learning.”

Board member Linda Piceno said she and other members expect to have a “quality educational program” with accountability in the fall.

“I’m disappointed and sad to hear from parents who felt their children’s education was less than optimum last spring,” she said.

To view the distance learning presentation, visit gilroyunified.org.