By Crystal Harrell
Ever since mid-March, school districts across the country have closed their doors as cases of the coronavirus first began to spread rapidly. What started as an early three-week spring vacation soon became an immediate end to in-class instruction. Teachers had to suddenly shift their lesson plans that would accommodate a distance learning curriculum, as schools closed for the remainder of the school year in order to curve the spread of COVID-19.
With this closure of the 2020 school year comes the cancellation of graduation ceremonies for both high school and college campuses. Although virtual commencements are to take place in June for some Coachella Valley High Schools, Xavier College Preparatory High School in Palm Desert hosted the first drive-thru graduation of the season. Cars with 137 matriculating seniors began lining up at 7 p.m. at the school. Decorations on cars were welcomed, and only one senior and immediate family were allowed per car.
“It was a special night. As we drove through the line, I was overwhelmed with excitement and emotion. It was so nice to see my friends riding in decorated cars and my teachers cheering me on. I was thankful my school made it so unique and personal for us seniors. It was a night I will always remember,” shared Xavier senior graduate Madelyn Jackson.
The closure of schools across the state has brought the issue of maintaining the educational needs of children but doing so in an environment that would be conducive to preventing the spread of the virus.
“Everything is in such flux right now! I think one thing is for sure: it is very difficult for schools to figure out ways to keep students safe and socially distanced when play and socialization is so important to the learning process, especially for our preschool and primary aged students. I think we will definitely see a focus on social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face masks in schools,” explained Temecula elementary school teacher Ami Paradise.
Plans are underway to have California schools open in the summer, but there is still uncertainty as to what protocols will need to be followed to ensure the safety of students and faculty during the pandemic. Half days in the classroom, smaller class sizes, and the continuous implementation of online learning are possibilities that the school districts have considered, although no official announcements will be made until they receive health guidelines from the state. The use of masks and social distancing will also be probable changes. Colleges will only have online courses available in the fall.
“We still do not exactly know how the new school year will look like. However, the class size will most likely be smaller. Smaller class sizes always helps us teachers support our students’ learning and it might help us reduce the spread of COVID-19. There will probably be more measurements that will need to be taken place,” said an instructor from Desert Hot Springs High School.
The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District is looking to raise funds to help address the economic downturn of the remaining school year and the 2020-21 year. The Foundation is seeking funding for school supplies, books to read, and resource to supplement its summer learning institute or provide for its art program. Those interested in contributing or want more information can reach out to TheFoundation@psusd.us or call (760)416-8455.