As California schools reopen to in-person instruction, students and families decide if it’s right for them

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Across California, schools are opening their doors again, a first step toward rebounding from the pandemic. But for most students in EdSource’s families project, life remains far from normal.

Some are having trouble navigating new school schedules and routines, forgetting to bring their tablets to school or meeting the school bus on time. Others are struggling with the new rules: staying 6 feet apart, walking one way down the hall, eating lunch without their friends.

A significant number of families have decided to skip in-person school altogether, even after a year of watching students struggle with distance learning and endure isolation and loneliness. The complicated scheduling logistics and the risk of infection outweigh the benefits of being in the classroom for the final few weeks of the school year, they said.

“I feel I’ve hit my limit,” said Moira Allbritton, whose children Lucy and Charlie are enrolled in San Diego Unified School District. “It’s too much. There seems to be a lack of consideration for all that families have to juggle.”

Complicating matters, schools have adopted hybrid models as varied as the state itself. Some are open five days a week, but for only a few hours. Others are open alternating days. Still others call for teachers to be in the classroom while most students remain at home. Plans are likely to change again in the fall.

But for many students, returning to the classroom has been pure joy. After a year of stress and uncertainty, they’re relishing every moment they can visit with friends, get to know their teachers and learn in the company of their classmates.

“(My daughter)’s very, very happy to go back to school. When I would wake her up for virtual learning, it was a battle,” said Miriam Arambula, whose 5-year-old daughter recently started in-person school in Fresno Unified. “But last week… she was so…