Parents Torn, Excited As Students Return to In-Person Learning

“Welcome Back” signs greet Bonita Unified School District students heading to campus for in-person learning for the first time in over a year. Photo Courtesy: Greg Palatto

By Kara Roa

The Bonita Unified School District joins local area schools in reopening elementary schools April 5 and secondary schools April 12 for on-campus learning. 

After a year of uncertainty regarding changing colored tiers, school site safety protocols and vaccine availability, BUSD reopened schools to mixed reactions.

Students will be able attend school under a hybrid model for two days a week on-campus or remain fully remote for the remainder of the school year.

With drastic changes to what in-person instruction looks like and the major accommodations families have made during the pandemic, the decision to send kids back to school is not an easy one.

“I don’t feel comfortable with the reopening of the school and their protocols. … Most schools are doing temperature checks upon arrival, and Bonita Unified is not doing that,” said Esmeralda Rivera, mother to a kindergartener at Gladstone Elementary. 

“My son has bad asthma, and I did not feel safe sending him back. … It’s hard because I had to quit my job, and I can’t return back to work because I don’t have anyone to watch him,” she said.

Amber Slater, a mother to an eighth grader at Ramona Middle School and teacher for another district, was torn about the decision to send her child back but was impressed with BUSD’s updates and safety protocols.

“As a teacher, I love that we’re going back and that parents have the choice to make a decision that’s right for them, so I’m excited to return, and I’ve been fully vaccinated.”  

However as a caretaker to her 85-year-old grandfather “who hasn’t been able to get his vaccine delivered to the house yet,” Slater decided to keep her son home over the risk of bringing COVID-19 home.

“But, I think Bonita Unified has done a wonderful job keeping up updated on changes and what the expectations are,” Slater said.

Many parents are concerned about the risks and rewards of sending their students back to campus so close to the end of the school year with continued COVID-19 risks.

With a senior at San Dimas High School, Melanie Henson shared the decision to return ultimately was left to her child and discussed as a family.  

Despite missing friends, Henson’s family decided to wait until more in the community are vaccinated.

“If they were struggling, I believe we may have had a tougher time deciding to stick with it,” she said.

Sam Evans is a mother to a first grader at Ekstrand Elementary who made the choice to return because she felt the situation was safe for teachers and her family along with concerns over her son’s struggle with distance learning.

“We could really feel the change in his attitude. It was really affecting him, and I don’t think we really realized how much,” Evans said.

“We were having a hard time getting him to stay in his seat. … So now that he had just this last week’s class for two days, when he was at home, he was able to sit virtually, undistracted,” said Evans.

Still, others like Carolyn Tuba, parent to a freshman at Bonita High School, are excited to return to school in any form and are optimistic about the positive effects the long-awaited change would bring to students.

“I feel that staying at home is no longer beneficial to most children … This has been difficult for their mental state. Teens especially are such social creatures and need to be interacting with their peers,” Tuba said.

Tuba added that her daughter is “excited and ready for things to get back to some kind of normal.”

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