Schools have faced changes and challenges
By Ashley Shah
Like most schools in the 2021-2022 school year, Scripps Ranch High School and Marshall Middle School transitioned to fully in-person learning after almost a year and a half of providing either hybrid or fully remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to these changes – including the shift back to full in-person instruction while a pandemic is ongoing, these schools have faced many challenges and changes.
Scripps Ranch High School
Over the past school year, there has been an increase in teacher absences.
“The absences kind of come in surges. In the fall, it was not that bad, but during the winter, especially in January, we had a lot of absences. Now, in the spring, it has mellowed out,” Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) Principal Matthew Lawson said.
Due to the amount of teacher absences, substitute teachers have been in demand.
“We have been very lucky to get teacher substitutes. Our school general secretaries Maria Medina and Leslie Blair have a really good relationship with the substitute teachers, so we have been able to get many of them,” Lawson said.
SRHS also had two on-site substitute teachers provided by the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).
“In the event that we could not get outside substitutes, we were able to have the on-site substitutes fill in,” Lawson said. “There were only some days when we had to combine classes and have students in the quad because we were not able to get anyone to fill.”
Alongside an overall increase in teacher absences, there was an increase in student absences.
“Similar to the teachers, the student absences come in waves. In January we hit a peak for the amount of student absences,” Lawson said.
In November and December of 2021, cases ranged from about three to 10 coronavirus cases per week, whereas in the beginning of January of this year, cases spiked to about 71 to 85 positive cases.
From the end of January to April, cases have stayed low, only reaching a maximum of 22 cases at the end of April.
With teacher and student absences being abundant this year, delivery of instruction has changed.
“Teachers have had to be flexible with their lesson plans so that students could access the lessons even if they were out. There has been more make up work as well as make up tests than there ever has been,” Lawson said.
Because of the switch from online to in-person learning alongside teacher absences, students have had to adjust.
“As a principal, I’ve heard all sorts of unique stories. Some students have been really impacted by the changes and absences, and others not so much. Our academic data is still showing very well, though,” Lawson said. “Overall, even though this year has been difficult, it is just so much better than before because we are physically together, and have been able to see students,” Lawson said.
Around 2,000 students attend SRHS this year, similar to years prior.
“I think this year has been a huge success and a breath of fresh air. In the fall, we weren’t really allowed to do things yet, like have a homecoming dance, but now in the spring, we have been able to have dances and hold events – just outside,” Lawson said. “Sports and clubs have been in full swing since fall, though.”
Marshall Middle School
Similar to SRHS, Marshall Middle School (MMS) has faced an overall increase in teacher absences.
“We had a hard time getting teacher coverage. At the worst, we had six or seven teachers absent,” Principal Joshua Way said.
The peak of teacher absences occurred in January.
“Even though we had classes unfilled, we were able to get other teachers in their preparatory periods to cover.
There were probably only about two to three days in the year where we had to combine classes in the multipurpose room, and we would have admin cover,” he said.
Student absences also were at an overall high this year.
“We definitely had a lot of absences, but Marshall did not feel it as bad as other schools. We have kept a
pretty low COVID rate,” Way said.
From November to December, cases ranged from about one to two per week. At the beginning of January, cases spiked to about 13 to 14 a week. From the end of January to now, cases have remained low, ranging from about zero to five a week, according to Way.
Switching from online to in-person learning while having many absences has created a new way of instruction.
“A lot of our curriculum was switched to online because it had to be last year, and so this year, we kept a lot of it online because we knew students would be coming and going,” Way said. “Teachers have kept assignments that used to be on paper in the online format so that students can work on it even if they cannot come in.”
Another change MMS faced this year was with the social scene for students.
“Something I have noticed this year is that students are struggling with the social aspects in school. It
doesn’t really help that teachers and students are always coming and going,” Way said. “Also, we haven’t been able to hold pep rallies and events that usually create the community at our school.”
Despite not being able to do in-school events, MMS has been able to produce theatrical musicals, some after school events and performances. Way remains optimistic about this school year, despite the challenges and changes MMS has faced.
“There has been a lot of good from being in-person,” he said. “Our curriculum has become a lot more flexible, which is beneficial to both staff and students. There is now a greater emphasis on social and emotional well-being. Mental illness has always been there, but now we are making it a priority be-
cause so many people are facing it now. And it has just been so nice to actually see students, build connections with them and have them in the classroom.”