In a normal year, Chula Vista neighborhoods would be filled at this time with screaming, smiling children running home from the last day of school.
Today, though, sounded like a wet firecracker. There were no excited hugs outside schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. There were no class parties. There were no garbage bags filled with long-lost sheets of homework cleaned from the deep recesses of desks.
Fifth-grader Joshua Dority really missed his friends at Enrique Camarena Elementary School when the coronavirus pandemic forced thousands of students to learn from home.
The excitement of distance learning faded as the weeks ticked by.
“Me and like all of my friends were like, ‘Yay!’ and now we’re all like, ‘Noooo!’” said the 11-year-old.
“I miss the children,” said Debra McLaren, Ed.D.
McLaren is Enrique 's principal and oversaw the transition from a traditional school to online learning.
“It’s been challenging, but I love challenges,” McLaren said.
Those challenges forced teachers to quickly adopt distance teaching, using technology that wasn’t a focus before.
“Now, we’re actually having to really use it for a real purpose,” McLaren said. “The other challenge will be -- and that I’m worried about -- is some of those homes that had some sort of dysfunctions to begin with.”
The district is working on it. A spokesman said that educators still don’t know when the next school year will begin or what it will look like.
“What I envision, and I see more so for the safety of everyone, is sort of a hybrid model,” said McLaren.
The district spokesman said the CVESD is weighing three models: complete distance learning, a hybrid model that combines classroom and distance learning, and a fluid model where students begin the year at home but eventually work their way back into classrooms during the year.
“I prefer school,” Joshua Dority. “I wish I could spend the last day of school with my friends and my teacher.”
Maybe next year.