As the Acalanes Union High School District attempted to manage the logistics of distance learning and the possibility of moving to a hybrid learning model in the future, an unexpected challenge presented itself: a massive textbook shortage.
Due to the abrupt shift to distance learning last spring, students were unable to return their school materials as they typically would have at the end of the school year.
The Acalanes community first noticed the problem in mid-August, when a Daily Dons email announced that over 1,000 textbooks and novels had not yet been returned from last year.
“We still have many unreturned textbooks from last year, which inhibits our ability to fully furnish this year’s needs,” Acalanes Administrative Assistant Joyce Larsen said.
Librarian Barbara Burkhalter is keeping a tally of how many resources are still not turned in.
“The number of overdue textbooks, including English novels as well, is still about 1000 [as of Aug. 28],” Burkhalter said.
As a result of students struggling to obtain the materials they need for each class, the missing materials put many students at a disadvantage at the beginning of the year.
“I am missing my AP Physics textbook and was initially missing my AP Biology textbook. I recently got an old copy from Las Lomas but a bunch of people still don’t have them,” sophomore Cole Regan said.
While many textbooks are found online, teachers understand the benefits of having physical materials at home, especially during distance learning.
“I think that having a physical textbook that you can flip through is certainly easier than a digital textbook in some respects. When you’re talking about trying to annotate a novel, then that could be very difficult,” math and engineering teacher Michael Buchel said.
Although many books are missing, the majority of students received their required materials at the beginning of the year.
“A lot of times we have more textbooks than we need for a class,” Burkhalter said. “Also, we can borrow books from other sites if they have some available.”
Students are beginning to resolve the shortage by returning their materials. There are also several workarounds that can supplement or even replace physical textbooks.
“It’s not a disaster situation. It’s one of the small hiccups when starting up this year,” Associate Principal Mike Plant said. “Like Canvas [an online learning platform]. We didn’t know much about Canvas when the year started but we’ve figured out almost everything about it. And that’s where we’re at with textbooks. In the first couple of weeks, we’ve figured out almost everything… and now it’s just up to [the students] to follow up on it.”