In San Jose Unified, fewer older students are returning to the classroom

Fewer students are returning to South Bay classrooms

Maureen Naylor from KTVU reports.

Students returning to the classroom have far fewer classmates.

New figures from South Bay’s largest school district show the vast majority of older students have chosen to stay home.

In fact, only one in five students in the San Jose Unified School District chose to return in person.

At Willow Glen Middle School in San Jose, about a third of students returned to campus at the start of in-person lessons on Wednesday.

“There are 1,300 students in a fully enrolled year. We are currently enrolled in approximately 460 in-person classes,” said Headmaster Paul Slayton.

The school principal says that under current health guidelines, in-person tuition is limited to a maximum of 15 students.

According to Slayton, some classes only have four students while the other 26 classmates study through an online platform.

According to the San Jose Unified School District spokeswoman, 44% of elementary school students returned to face-to-face tuition, but the numbers continued to decline for older students.

Only 32% of middle school students returned and only 20% of students chose to return in the last six weeks of the school year.

“We seem to see that in most places, even when schools reopen, some students don’t come back,” said Alix Gallagher, director of strategic partnerships with policy analysis for California Education, or PACE.

PACE, the independent, non-partisan research center, deals with education in California and looks to the fall.

Given concerns about academic, social and emotional deficits among students, the group is working on guidelines to propose what is known as a “restorative restart” for schools.

“Understanding that children, especially teenagers (and) teenagers, really need these relationships in order to make academic progress,” Gallagher said.

Heidi Emberling’s 17-year-old daughter Sarah, a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, decided to stay home.

“For my daughter, the decision to stay at home was a personal one. She’s happy with her facility, she has strong internet access, and she really likes having access to the refrigerator,” said Emberling.

However, Emberling, director of the Parents Place social services agency at the Center for Children and Adolescents, says personal return should be a priority for students facing additional challenges like depression and anxiety from not being in contact with their peers .

“I think for these students, personal experiences are critical to their sanity,” said Emberling.

Looking ahead to the fall, researchers say the school not only needs to focus on students who are now academically lagging behind, but also needs to get back to enforcing the discipline.

One suggestion that researchers have for the fall is that students return early and spend the first part of the school year building relationships and trust between families and schools, rather than academics.

In terms of enrollment, figures released by San Jose Unified show that enrollment has decreased by approximately 850 students compared to the previous school year.

A district spokeswoman said the main reason for the decline was a decline in TK and kindergarten enrollments, followed by students who choose to attend school in other states, elsewhere in California, or in a private school.

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