San Jose students return to campus full-time; educators teach in-person and online

About 10,000 students in all grades in the San Jose Unified School District returned to the district's 41 campuses Wednesday morning for the first time in 13 months. Students returning for in-person learning will attend class full-time, five days a week.

Teachers will do teach lessons simultaneously to both, students in-person in class, as well as their students online.

Hand-written signs and balloons greeted students trekking to Pioneer High School as students arrived.

"I'm super excited for my daughter," said Kendal Gallagher, a parent of a Pioneer High School junior. "She misses her friends, her teachers. I'm excited for her to go back and get a good education this way."

Another parent also celebrated the return to campus.

Steve Dawson said his 16-year-old son's grades have dropped after months of online-only learning.

"I'm happy he's going back. He was getting into a groove at home, but his grades have suffered. Below where he had been when the pandemic started," Dawson said. "It's a very different learning experience on the internet than it is in the classroom."

For Pioneer High School freshman, Joshua Velazquez, today was the first time he attended class on his high school campus.

"Mostly excited,  but I'm also very nervous. I haven't been to high school yet, and it's all very new to me," Velazquez said.

When asked if he was sad about missing most of his freshman year, in-person, he said: "Yes, very. Everyone said freshman year is going to be fun, you're going to make new friends. I really didn't get to do that, everything was online. But, I'm just trying my best to keep up."

Unlike many other Bay Area school districts, San Jose Unified did not choose a hybrid, or part-time schedule to reopen.

"I'm super glad there's an option for families to be in school a full day," said Pioneer High School principal, Herb Espiritu. "It's a lot of work on the teachers, but they're willing to staff up and give it a try."

A total of 70 percent of the district's 29,000 students will finish the academic year with remote learning.

Families and students had to decide back in November of last year whether they wanted to return to campus and there weren't many opportunities to change their minds.

San Jose Unified brought back a select group of about 2,000 of its highest-needs students in February, but Tuesday is the first time the school has reopened for all students. Students will be returning on a full-time schedule, and teachers are doing both lessons in-person as well as online, simultaneously.

There will be no more than 15 to 16 students in a classroom at one time.

The San Jose Unified superintendent shared a welcome back video, showing some of the changes and new rules for students returning today

They include mandatory face coverings, daily health and wellness checks, as well as distanced socializing.

San Jose Unified chose April 21 as a starting date because of an agreement with their teacher's unions to return when Santa Clara County was in the orange tier.

The district was able to secure vaccinations for all of its 4,000 educators.