Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE/ARCATA – By most accounts, the return of in-person learning at the Northern Humboldt Union High School District has been a success, with students grateful to be back on campus.
After more than a year of distance learning due to the pandemic, students at McKinleyville, Arcata, Pacific Coast, Six Rivers Charter and Mad River high schools returned to a hybrid learning model on April 5.
About a third of the district’s students opted to remain in distance learning. The students who chose in-person learning were broken into two groups and alternate between one week of on-campus learning and a week of distance learning.
“In general, I’d say things are going very well,” said NHUHSD Superintendent Roger Macdonald at the April 20 meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees.
“The kids coming to school were grateful to be at school,” said Macdonald, who noted that attendance is at 90 percent.
Arcata High senior Isabella Volz-Broughton told the trustees in a written report that she was glad to be back on campus.
“As an athlete and a senior I feel so blessed to be where we are now. I get to have a senior season for softball, and many others get to also have their senior seasons; something many of us thought wouldn’t be a reality,” Volz-Broughton wrote. “We all made this happen because of following safety protocols and endless meetings in order to plan. Like myself this is giving athletes the opportunity to do what they love and feel a sense of normalcy. For those who don’t play sports having the opportunity to go back to in-person extends the sense of normalcy across the Arcata High campus.”
Arcata High student Avery Arbaugh wrote to the board about how she polled students to find out their views on the new learning model.
“Overwhelmingly students who have returned said that they benefited from working in a physical space, and while some felt it was a bit more hectic than usual, and others were worried about some students lying on their health check, students who returned generally said they felt safe and that, at least on campus, precautions were being made,” Arbaugh wrote.
The feedback she received from students still in distance learning was critical of the changes.
“Of students who remained in distance learning however, [up to] 70 percent of 40 students polled said their quality of education has decreased, and many expressed that the lack of attention now given to students who are online, makes it more difficult to connect to the coursework,” Arbaugh wrote.
At a previous board meeting, Macdonald said that the return to in-class learing would have an effect on distance learning, with teachers having to teach both kids in and out of the classroom.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Macdonald, who repeatedly thanked district staff for their efforts.
Trustee Aristea Saulsbury also thanked staff.
“I know that it is a huge lift and I hope you’re feeling the rewards of it,” Saulsbury said. “I hope we can find a way to make next year go much more smoothly. A heartfelt appreciation for you all.”
When the next school year starts on Aug. 30, all students will be returning to the classroom. Distance learning will come to an end.
“Currently, there’s nothing in legislation that allows us to do anything other than open up normally,” Macdonald said. “There are no provisions for distance learning. There are no provisions for less minutes in the day. There are no provisions for synchronous learning.”
Students will need to come back to class. However, students and staff will most likely be fully masked and other precautions will be taken.