Mayra Becerra, Ivanhoe Sol

Visalia Unified School District recently announced its plan to delay the in-person start date for the students it serves. As K-6th grade parents prepared for the changes to come November 30th, Superintendent Tamara Ravilin shared the new start date Dec. 7th, just before Christmas vacation. 


The start date for in-person changed but all students served by Visalia Unified School District can expect some changes within their class roster. 


Ivanhoe parents with students at VUSD were sent a survey with two options for their children’s education: in-person learning or distance learning. The district made it very clear that if a parent chose distance learning they would lose the option of in-person learning later in the year even if Tulare County was deemed safe to reopen.


This recent announcement invoked various reactions within the Ivanhoe community.


Parents tired of some of the unintended difficulties caused by distance learning are content with the opportunity to choose in-person teaching. These parents have confidence in the ability of VUSD to provide a safe structured environment for their students amid this pandemic. 


In response to a Facebook Post bythe  Ivanhoe Sol, Adreina Aceves responded, “As complicated as it was, I’m glad to say that my son will be returning to school. I have trust that the school will take all safety protocols to protect my child. The same health measurements I take at work sound similar to what students and staff will be doing. I touch the dirtiest thing in this world, MONEY. AND ALL DAY LONG. Thank the lord for giving the parents the CHOICE.” 


Unfortunately safety protocols for the school district were not available on their public website.  


Mrs. Yang, the current Vice Principal of Ivanhoe Elementary, shared with residents at the Ivanhoe Community Council November meeting that there is a 15 student cap per classroom. 


Other parents are not ready to send their students back in person and have chosen to keep their children home in distance learning. Responding to the same post, Tara Martin said she is “Keeping mine (students) home until the District, County and State figures out how to keep him safe. Not worth the risk.”


Belma Rodriguez, another Ivanhoe parent shared, “not sure why schools are opening. I do feel heartbroken for my little girl because at this early age they need to socialize with classmates and teachers but cannot risk it either. It’s very complicated.”


For k-6th the changes won’t be as drastic as their older counterparts in the school district. For example, all 7-12th grade students will lose their teachers and instead learn on the Edgenuity virtual learning platform which VUSD currently uses for summer school. There will be advisors to provide help if needed. 


Parents have had to weigh the other pros and cons of distance learning for their students during this unprecedented pandemic. This has proven to be a difficult choice for some since other issues like internet connectivity in Ivanhoe have also been important considerations. Furthermore, through our interviews we have learned that the Chromebooks provided from VUSD for distance learning are not fully equipped to run ZOOM and have caused some serious confusion with students. Many students also report missing their once daily interaction with friends and are now sitting in front of a screen for approximately three hours. Even with this limited internet usage many students still report experiencing troublesome audio, frozen screens, and tired eyes.


Regardless of a parents’ choice we hope that VUSD ensures students safety and equitable access to education. While there are many reactions to this development, it is clear that the local education system is flawed in many significant ways but our hope is coming out of this pandemic we can continue to work on these issues and ensure every resident of Ivanhoe and the San Joaquin Valley can access high quality education regardless of their personal and family background.

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