When Kaiser announced that students would be returning to school in person in the 3rd quarter, students were given the choice to recuse themselves from attending. Known as the “opt-out,” the option would allow students to continue virtual learning from the first semester. Over 50% of the student body (not including Acellus-registered students) immediately decided to opt-out, with the number gradually rising to 66% as of April.
The proportion of students opting out was uneven across grade levels. Students new to Kaiser, especially the freshmen, wanted to begin their on-campus high school experiences as soon as possible, and students in lower grade levels were less likely to opt-out: as of April, 198 of 256 seniors (75%), 176 of 248 juniors (71%), 175 of 272 sophomores (64%), and 135 of 265 freshmen (51%) continued will full-distance learning for the remainder of the school year. (Figures courtesy of Sela Park)
The option was designed to address parents with safety concerns, as many “feel that it’s still not safe to send your child in [to school],” Principal Justin Mew said. Parent oversight is essential since young adults nationwide have been recorded to break COVID-19 restrictions at higher rates. Perhaps to reflect this is the fact that the required documents for the opt-out only require parent/guardian signature; no student input necessary.
Student preferences were not totally ignored: Mew noted that “there are some students who are actually doing well with full distance learning,” he said. Students who were doing well could convince their parents to submit their opt-out intentions on their behalf.
The decision was irreversible—once a student had opted out, they would not be permitted to return to campus for classes until COVID-19 restrictions allowed the entire student body to return to school. However, after certain administrative and schedule changes, in particular the combined element groups, some students regretted their decisions.
In fact, the changes to the element schedule would not be possible if students could “opt-in.” Due to social distancing requirements, classrooms are only permitted to hold a certain number of people per room, and the original element groups were developed to comply with that restriction. Because of high opt-out rates, though, the number of students per classroom was lower than expected. As a result, the element groups were small enough to be combined without exceeding class size limits.
In the next school year, Kaiser plans to host the entire student body on campus. The transition may be difficult for students, but the entire Kaiser community is sure to opt-in to a return to normalcy.