Families at San Jose Unified will have option to continue distance learning

San Jose’s largest school district is making plans to bring students back to the classroom in January. Families will have an option for in person or distance learn but not both.

Officials at San Jose Unified School District said it was the logical next step with COVID case rates trending in the right direction. Students can’t choose both options because the district wants consistency. One of the main concerns is that teachers are expected to do remote and classroom instruction simultaneously.

“Trust me as a senior, I want to be back as much as the next guy,” said Willow Glen High School Senior Kyle Booker.

Booker said while he wants to go back to school he likely won't.

“Because we aren’t completely under control yet, I would say we should stay virtual until we can guarantee everything is clear and safe,” said Booker.

“We have every intention of opening for in-person instruction on January 5,” said San Jose Unified School District Spokeswoman Nancy Albarran.

San Jose Unified is laying out plans for 2021 after 28,000 students have spent the school year so far distance learning.

“It’s definitely going to be different,” said Maddox. “Masks will be required, six-foot distancing at all times.”

Other changes include staggered break times, Plexiglas barriers for adult staff and students must fill out a symptom questionnaire at the start of the school day.

Another change is teachers will be instructing students in class and online at the same time.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a transition for teachers, it's going to be a transition for students as well,” said San Jose Unified School District Spokeswoman Jennifer Maddox.

The district said this model gives all students access to a teacher for a full school day and flexibility should a teacher or student test positive for COVID and need to isolate.

“We all know it’s going to take a lot of support,” said Maddox. “We need to and are planning to begin professional development for our teachers.”

Preschool teacher Katie Moeckel questions how can she be present online and in person. She wants students to return only if safety measures are in place.

The district said since July 1, when teachers returned to school a handful of district personnel contracted COVID outside the work environment with no community spread.

One parent is eager for his high schooler to return to school and understands it won't be easy.

“I think the parents, we need to adjust our expectations and be happy that we are going forward and there's some sense of normalcy returning,” said Parent Mike Flynn.

The district could postpone reopening if the county goes back to the red or purple tiers. Officials won’t know that until December 30. The district is also working with the county to secure a contract to provide testing for teachers at school sites.