The excitement at Don Callejon School in Santa Clara was palpable on Monday, March 29. For the first time in more than a year, students were allowed on campus to participate in hybrid learning.
“Roman’s excited to go back to school,” said parent Abigail Andrade. “[He’s] a little bit nervous. He hasn’t been on campus for a year. But he was excited to kind of get back into the swing of things.”
“She’s excited,” said one parent after dropping her daughter off at the school entrance. “She said, ‘Ma please, I want to go to school.’”
As planned, the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) began to phase in hybrid learning the Monday after Santa Clara County moved to the state’s COVID-19 Orange Tier. On Monday, first graders and second graders returned to their respective campuses in small groups. Over the next two weeks, the district will phase in hybrid learning for all grade levels.
Don Callejon welcomed back approximately 30 students on the first day of hybrid learning. All of the students were wearing masks and lined up outside of the school before entering. They were provided hand sanitizer before they headed to their classrooms.
Inside the classrooms, students continued to wear their masks. They were socially distanced with see-through plastic barriers on three sides of their desks. Teachers were also masked and separated by a plastic barrier.
Despite the changes, teachers at Don Callejon were excited to get back into the classrooms and see their students in person. Don Callejon principal Eric Witter says while everyone was happy to return, the celebration was muted by design.
“The focus for us was safety. At first, we thought about, ‘Are we going to have music?’ and it was like, ‘No.’ Our model, it’s distance learning from home or it’s distance learning from school. Kids coming to school safely is the top priority. With that focus, I think it went really well,” said Witter.
Teachers weren’t the only ones happy to see the kids again.
“I’m so happy,” said one crossing guard who has worked at Don Callejon for 16 years. “I miss all my children and the people in the community too.”
Crossing guard Nancy Koble, who has worked at the school for eight years was just as excited. She said coming back is allowing her to connect with people in a way she wasn’t able to during quarantine.
SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp was at Don Callejon to welcome students and parents. She says she’s pleased with the way hybrid learning has started out.
“I’m so excited to have students back. It has been too long since they’ve been on campus,” said Kemp. “It’s a good start. This is a good way to sort of test the ingress of students and how they’re coming on campus to see what you need to refine before the large groups show up…I think the big test will be when we start having our secondary students come back. Next week is the big week because we have so many grade levels returning over two days.”
SCUSD is the second unified school district in Santa Clara County to return students at this scale. The district is already taking steps to make sure that if the county’s current health regulations hold, students will be able to safely return to campuses in the fall for full in-person learning.