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Campus without students: Faculty and staff still hard at work

By Ashley Lee and Matt Wang Oct. 14, 2020

Audrey Lui Photo

When the bell rang in the middle of March, classroom doors would fling open, dismissing hundreds of students to their next class. Now, when the bell rings, Webex calls come to an end, and students and teachers prepare to log in to their next class. This school year is unlike any previous year: classrooms that were once crowded with students only have a teacher inside, and many staff members are working from home.

One noticeable change to the school is the decrease in campus population: over 1,900 students used to attend the school in person, but now, all students engage in distance learning. Thus, the Counseling Resource Center (CRC), which was constantly filled with students for various reasons—to meet with academic counselors, utilize computers and printers, obtain and submit volunteer forms and seek test preparation materials—is now sparsely populated.

Even though many counselors are working from the CRC, students are not allowed to enter the area under any circumstance. Therefore, counselors have to communicate with students remotely. Hannah Banks, Academic Counseling Department, for instance, now speaks with her students through email and Webex appointments.

“Initially, virtual school was difficult because I had to learn how to utilize Canvas and Webex and could not easily call students out of class to talk to them. However, despite these challenges, there are also benefits of a socially distant school: we are keeping students safe and teaching them how to solve the various issues that arise with virtual learning,” Banks said.

Unlike students who are mandated to learn from home, staff members have some flexibility in whether they teach from home or from school. For instance, Heidi Pimentel, Foreign Language Department, works from home because it allows her to focus on her students while also looking after her two children. In contrast, Susanna Young, Math Department, has decided to teach from school because it allows her to communicate easily with Veronica Burton, Math Department. Since Burton and Young both teach the same courses, Young explains that communicating promptly is crucial to them in order to maximize collaboration and efficiency for their students.

“It feels strange to teach in an empty classroom. I usually think of my classroom as a positive and collaborative space, but with distance learning, it has been challenging to get to know students or for students to work collaboratively throughout the entire class,” Young said.

In addition to some teachers, the custodians also commute to school. Their current duties are similar to the tasks they performed prior to distance learning: they clean the bathrooms, windows and more, ensuring that the campus remains clean. However, in order to minimize contact with staff members, custodians are only permitted to sanitize outside surfaces including door handles and are unable to physically enter classrooms. Thus, teachers are now responsible for cleaning their rooms with disinfectants provided by the school.

“As only a few people are allowed to come to school, the campus is very clean. However, I still sanitize the main office and the bathrooms every day. I used to regularly clean the classrooms, but I am unable to sanitize them unless teachers request it. Even though I am commuting to school, I feel safe on campus because my job does not require frequent contact with other staff members,” Carlos Carranza, Head Custodian, said.

While custodians and some teachers have remained on campus, the cafeteria staff no longer work from the school during distance learning. A partnership between San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), the state of California and the National Student Lunch Program provides students with free grab-and-go meals at 24 different schools throughout the week. However, since the school does not offer this meal program, the student nutritional employees prepare lunches for students at other SJUSD schools while the cafeteria on campus remains empty.

In spite of the challenges distance learning entails, the school continues to operate both on and off campus. Although numerous parts of the school have changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers, custodians and other staff alike attempt to maintain continuity and provide the help students need to succeed.


About the Contributors

Ashley Lee

Community News and 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.

Matt Wang

Sports Editor

Matt Wang a senior at Leland High School and the Sports Editor for the Charger Account. He enjoys photography, listening to music and playing League of Legends.

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