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Back to School: Some students return in cohorts

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

By Ashley Lee and Norah Shen Mar. 17, 2021

Audrey Lui Photo


On Feb. 26, in a letter from San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), Superintendent Nancy Albarrán announced that the district will reopen for a limited number of students on April 21, more than one year after closing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, students who have been unsuccessful in transitioning to distance learning cannot afford to wait that long. On Feb. 24, 30 SJUSD campuses began hosting a total of 39 in-person support cohorts.

Unlike previous in-person models, the cohort plan is provided to students even when the county is in the purple or red tier. In the “In-Person Support for Distance Learning” webinar on Jan. 26, Jodi Lax, Associate Superintendent of Instruction at SJUSD, explained that for the students with the highest needs, the longer they stay in distance learning, the more dire their situation becomes.

Currently, in-person cohorts are being prioritized for students with low academic performance, low socioeconomic status, chronic absences or are in special education.

Currently, in-person cohorts are being prioritized for students with low academic performance, low socioeconomic status, chronic absences or are in special education. Furthermore, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 12th grade students are amongst the first students to attend in-person cohorts. In the same webinar, Lax states that the younger students are prioritized because their curriculum includes fundamental topics like reading and writing, and seniors are emphasized because they need to graduate and prepare for college. In total, 400 to 500 students are allowed to attend certain campuses which have been equipped with cohort supervisors and leaders to facilitate distance learning from the classroom.

Even though students in the academic cohorts are attending school in-person, they will still be participating in distance learning, receiving instruction via WebEx from their teachers exactly as if they were at home. In classrooms, cohort leaders will help students log in to their WebEx classes, stay focused during lessons and understand their assignments.

Cohort leaders are current SJUSD employees, such as After School Education and Safety partners, who are available to lead the academic groups. They are responsible for overseeing students and maintaining safety protocols. In the same webinar, J. Dominic Bejarano, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, explained that since the job requires a full, eight-hour workday, cohort leaders will receive a $2,500 stipend that supplements their salary. In addition, cohort leaders receive training and participate in professional development activities to further enhance their technical skills so they can properly help students improve their academic performance.

In order to maintain health guidelines, Lax states that a maximum of 10 students are allowed per academic cohort, and everyone will be mandated to wear masks and social distance.

“It is important to keep students’ physical health in mind as well as their mental health when reopening. As long as the cohorts are small and safety measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing are strictly enforced, this could be very helpful for those who decide to go back to campus,” Freshman Dharini Vamathevan said.

In order to maintain health guidelines, Lax states that a maximum of 10 students are allowed per academic cohort, and everyone will be mandated to wear masks and social distance.

To better assist students, on April 21, after SJUSD teachers receive vaccinations, all SJUSD campuses, regardless of whether they are currently offering the cohort model or not, will implement a hybrid model of distance learning and in-person learning. The school has already assigned students to in-person or distance learning based on the choices they made in the Family Choice Process in November of 2020. However, since some students’ and parents’ preferences may have changed since fall, SJUSD gave families until March 16 to make their final decision on going back to campus.

While the district did not give the school an in-person support cohort, it has begun hosting extracurricular cohorts for activities such as sports and plans on allowing in-person club meetings with staff advisors. These support cohorts and upcoming in-person learning options are only the first of many plans to welcome students back to school.

 

About the Contributors

Ashley Lee

Community News & Feature

School Editor


Ashley Lee is a junior at Leland High School and the Community News and Feature School page editor for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys baking, traveling, and trying new cuisine.







Norah Shen

Staff Writer


Norah Shen is a freshman at Leland High School and is a new staff writer. She likes to read, listen to music, and relentlessly tease her younger sister.

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