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Back to In-Person Classes at UUSD

Stacey Sheldon
From left to right: Pomolita teacher Kira Gibson, 8th grader Mar Felix, and Pomolita teacher Meredith Delucia

September 15, 2021--After a nineteen month closure due to the covid pandemic, school is back in session for Mendocino County's Ukiah Unified School District. Earlier this month, UUSD reopened its 16 schools throughout the Ukiah area to serve their population of approximately 6,000 K-12 students. After a year long separation, students returned to campus to reunite with their teachers in their classrooms. The return to in person learning provides yet the latest challenge for students and teachers as they navigate their way out of isolation, distance and screen reliance to return to classrooms peopled with classmates, teachers, and the need to follow the social norms of an academic setting.

Mar Felix is an 8th grade student at Pomolita Middle school. She, along with two of her teachers, Kira Gibson and Meredith Delucia, shared their personal experiences of returning back to class and the unique challenges presented during this transitional time.

Back in March of 2020, Mar was in 6th grade at Pomolita, studying with Mrs. Gibson, when the arrival of Covid aburptly shut down school. She recalls that no one imagined the school closure would last for as long as it did. She, along with 6,000 other UUSD students, abruptly said goodbye to their classmates, teachers and classrooms and went home armed with Chromebooks and learning packets for distance learning. Isolated, distanced and screen reliant, teachers and students did the best they could to create on-line educational communities. It was not easy on anyone.

Mrs. Gibson remembers the difficultly of pivoting, without notice or preparation, from in person learning to a distance learning model with her 34 middle school students no longer right in front of her in the classroom.

Meredith Delucia, 6th grade Pomolita teacher, described the collective shock and confusion experienced by students and teachers alike when the school suddenly closed.

No one could predict that UUSD schools, along with numerous schools around the world, would remain shuttered for nineteen months. Mar, along with the other 6,000 UUSD students, spent the next school year at home engaged in distance learning. She completed her 7 grade year entirely on line. But this year, as an 8th grader, Mar is back on the Pomolita campus along with all the other UUSD students.

The students' return to in person class presents some new challenges for educators. After so much time away from each other, students and teachers need to remember how to work together in the same room to to create a functioning classroom community. The task of reteaching students the skills of patience and empathy so that they can work together in a class where everybody is seen and heard and respected are skills that many of us adults are also relearning as we slowly transition out of our isolation and back into society. Mrs. Gibson notes that the current divide and discords in our own communities and country further exacerbate the challenge of creating harmonious classrooms.

Now, back on campus as an 8th grader, Mar Felix couldn't be happier.

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