The start of the 2020-21 school year is unlike any other for Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) students. On Monday, students started the year not in the classroom, but in distance learning.
The new method of schooling has created challenges not just for the students, but for staff and administrators as well. They are trying to ease the transition for students and are doing their best to create and strengthen the sense of community in each student. Many district elementary schools created festive atmospheres at their school supply pick up events last week to get kids excited to start the school year.
“[The teachers are] excited to see the kids, they’re excited to see the kids excited,” said Sutter Elementary School Principal Michael Fong during his school’s pick-up day on Friday. “[The kids are] excited to see the teachers. We’re excited. We’re ready to rock and roll. We’re really ready to go. So, just like a normal school year, just under different circumstances.”
Teachers made signs, put out decorations and added some overall cheer to the pick-up day at Sutter. They say, being there to see the students in person means a lot to them.
“Looking at them in real life versus a computer screen is so different,” said Sutter teacher Amanda Howell. Howell was at Friday’s supplies pick-up day to personally hand out school supplies to her new kindergarten students.
“I think for us it’s trying to bring in that back to school excitement that you can’t always capture through a computer screen,” said Howell. “They can see us in person and even though we have to be physically distanced, it gives us that connection.”
The staff at Sutter isn’t the only one rolling out the red carpet for students. Pomeroy Elementary School set out a big display in front of the school to welcome students back. While Westwood Elementary School’s PTSA got the San Jose Sharks’ mascot, SJ Sharkie, to make a welcome back video.
“I think that’s the saddest part, is that we have no control over how we can start the year,” said SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp. “So, we try to bring as much normalcy as we can and make it special for the students and for the teachers as well.”
For its part, the district has created two hashtags — #SCUSDFirstDay and #SCUSDproud — to get parents and their kids involved.
“First day of Junior year distant learning!! Although not the ideal way she wanted to begin her school year (she misses her friends so much), but she’s loving the comfort of being at home! #SCUSDProud #SCUSDfirstday,” posted one parent on Instagram.
“Another school year begins…was a great first day,” posted a parent of three SCUSD students, two at Haman Elementary and one at Buscher Middle School.
“First day of school for us today…mommy teaching 5th, E is in 2nd and C is a Kindergartener! Here’s to a great start of the year,” posted an SCUSD teacher.
SCUSD plans to use the #SCUSDproud throughout the school year to continue to build the sense of community.