Sixth period AP English Literature students practice using Google Meet to prepare for the campus closure March 16 through March 20, due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Michelle Buckley)
Sunny Hills High School

Coronavirus threat closes Orange County public schools

Sunny Hills High School students, parents and staff were notified in an email from the Fullerton Joint Union High School District that because of the spreading coronavirus threat, the campus will remain closed until March 30.

FJUHSD schools, including Sunny Hills, are expected to follow their regular bell schedules. Teachers were instructed to use Google Classroom as their main platform to reach out to students. 

“In all my years in education I’ve never seen anything like [this],” principal Allen Whitten said. “But in this situation, I think it was the right thing to do, and I really appreciate the way our staff and students handled it.”

All six high school and two continuation school campuses in the FJUHSD are closed to students until Friday. The following week is spring break, which is why the message from the district mentions a return date of March 30.

“We will be moving to a Distance Learning Model [online],” superintendent Scott Scambray said in the FJUHSD’s notice of closure. “While the idea of Distance Learning is a significant shift from the typical learning model, we have been working with our teachers on a Distance Learning Platform to ensure that high-quality instruction continues.”

Though FJUHSD schools are set to reopen on March 30, officials are still awaiting agency recommendations. Meanwhile, student and staff reaction to the district’s news ranged from confusion to optimism that the closure could be one step toward stopping the spread of this pandemic.

“This is confusing as heck,” senior Katie Pham said. “I don’t know if prom is going to be a thing, so I’ll probably not get a ticket.”

As students looked to grasp what was occurring, some teachers were more optimistic.

“Hopefully things change for the positive,” Spanish teacher Maria Torres said. “It’s crazy out there.” 

In English teacher Tom Wiegman’s Advanced Placement Literature class, students practiced distance learning by using Zoom and Google-Meet, two web-based conferencing applications.

“I think that it’ll be a new experience and obviously there’ll be technical difficulties,” senior Albert Lee said. “It may be chaotic because teachers don’t have a way to keep students from ‘going rogue’ and not showing up.”

 

What will happen in the next few weeks

In an email message sent to students, the principal encouraged students to follow the bell schedule from home and tried to calm seniors’ concerns about the postponement of the April 4 prom.

“If you have a zero period class, you should be ready to go at the normal time and the same applies to all classes,” Whitten wrote. “Each teacher will have slightly different approaches to this, so stay flexible and open to each format. As we always do, we will get through this by supporting one another and staying positive!”

“On another note, I know many of you are concerned about prom and other traditions that we don’t want to lose this year,” the principal’s note continues. “For now, prom is just postponed, and we are going to do everything we can to preserve all of the great Sunny Hills traditions — especially for our awesome seniors.”

Principal Whitten said he’s excited for the opportunity of online learning.

“Teachers are learning all kinds of new skills that can help students in a remote environment or in the classroom when we return,” he said. 

Freshman Joya Blaho is concerned about her senior sister’s high school experience.  

“I think it’s important that we keep our traditions at Sunny Hills,” Blaho said. “I feel terrible that these events might not happen. My sister is a senior and she is very upset, and I feel sad knowing she will not get all the things we grew up dreaming about.”

 

How school closures affect sports

Athletics director Jon Caffrey said Friday no sports events will take place for two weeks practices and games included. 

Sunny Hills’ track meet, which was set for last Saturday, was canceled by its organizers. 

These announcements came on Friday, just hours after President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national state of emergency and the Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to close all of its schools. 

Nevertheless, student athletes had to rely on text or social media notifications about their sports practice and games, especially for this weekend. As of Saturday, players for baseball, softball and track received information about what to do.

“Freshman Baseball: Season suspended until at least March 30. Try to keep your arms strong and take swings so that when we restart, you will be ready,” according to text from freshman baseball coach Doug Senne. “Private instruction session [Saturday, Sunday, and/or Tuesday]. I instruct pitching, hitting, catching, throwing and position-specific skills.”    

First-year junior varsity softball coach Kiana Scott sent a text to her players a few hours before the district’s announcement about school closure.

“All games are canceled until further notice,” Scott wrote.

Though boys volleyball was allowed to play last Thursday in the gym without fans in attendance, it was unclear whether the team will be able to play its first Freeway League match scheduled for April 1, the day after the scheduled March 30 return date for students. 

“Playing without an audience made me feel less motivated,” libero volleyball player junior Ethan Lim said. “I didn’t hear my friends screaming my name, so I don’t think I played at my full potential. If we aren’t able to play our first league match, I would be very sad and disappointed because we put so much work into this program.”

 

How the Coronavirus threat will impact March and April events 

Scambray announced via Aeries communication last Thursday the cancelation or postponement of all field trips, non-essential small and large gatherings, meetings, events, assemblies, school open houses, performances, festivals and other activities. 

Scambray made this announcement following California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines issued earlier that day, restricting the assembly of 250 people or more in enclosed spaces. That led to the cancellation of the Friday ASB elections assembly.

To accommodate for such a change, administrators decided to modify the bell schedule, allotting 14 more minutes to students’ Period 2 classes, which meant all the other classes lost two minutes. 

Assistant principal Hilda Arredondo emailed teachers about showing the attached videos of ASB candidates’ campaign presentations as well as of the cheer team performing in a special routine with male athletes, which had originally been scheduled as a live event. 

ASB publicity commissioner junior Kathryn Aurelio, who was running for ASB secretary, had mixed feelings regarding the cancelation. 

I was bummed our videos wouldn’t be shown with a large audience for more ‘hype,’” Aurelio said. “I was a bit glad we didn’t have to stay late [and] wake up really early to finish the large class posters. I know our pep committee worked really hard to coordinate with candidates and sports teams, plan out decorations and create the emcee script as well.”

Junior class president Daniel Magpayo, who is in charge of planning prom, was upset that the future of the dance is uncertain as the planned venue, the W Hotel in Hollywood, had to be reserved two to three years in advance for the April 4 prom.

The Los Angeles County reported that, as of Sunday, there are 69 cases within the county — a number that is expected to grow. 

“Throughout my junior year, I’ve been working really hard to try to make this prom perfect for not only the seniors, but also the juniors,” said Magpayo, who ran unopposed for ASB president for the 2020-2021 school year. “I just feel like everything I’ve worked for this year just went to waste.”

Senior Alex Alonzo, a Bayanihan Club cabinet member, was disappointed in the turn of events as he planned to perform at Pilipino Culture Night on April 18.

“The [Performing Arts Center] is completely off-limits,” Alonzo said. “The only chance we would have of performing would be on a weekday when we get back, which would probably be on like a Tuesday night no one’s going to show up for that. It really just sucks because a lot of people in their club put their efforts into this, and it just derailed.”

Students who planned to take the SAT, like junior Elliana Kim, were forced to change their plans as the College Board announced that certain test centers had closed and exams would be rescheduled.

“I am happy that it got rescheduled because I have more time to study for it but also disappointed because I studied for it,” said Kim, who was registered to take the test at Valencia High School. “I’m also scared because I don’t know when it’ll be rescheduled.”