Local school officials were huddling Monday to talk about how the latest COVID-19 closures ordered Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom might impact back-to-school plans.
Central Unified spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said Central Unified superintendent Andy Alvarado and other superintendents were conferring with Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino about preparing for the new school year given the rising rates of infection locally.
Other school districts in California have made the call to keep schools closed.
Even though President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding for schools that do not completely reopen for the new school year, the Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts — the state’s two largest districts — announced Monday that they plan to maintain distance learning for at least the start of the school year in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Long Beach Unified announced the school year would begin with distance learning.
By contrast, the Orange County Board of Education was scheduled to hold a special meeting Monday night to make recommendations to the Southern California county’s schools that included not requiring children to wear masks when they return to school next month.
Central Unified Considers Hybrid Schedule
Central’s trustees are scheduled to meet Tuesday evening, and the administration initially was recommending that the school year start on a hybrid schedule, with students in class for two of the five weekdays and receiving online instruction for the other three days.
With smaller class sizes in what the district is calling stage 3, students can be socially distanced in schools. In stages 1 and 2, students would be taught by distance learning. Dosti said Tuesday that the recommendation now, based on the latest health advisories, is to start the school year in stage 2.
Late Monday afternoon Central Unified announced that a special board meeting was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for a closed session to discuss with Alvarado a “threat to public services.”
The district had planned to announce the school reopening plan at a news conference Wednesday, Dosti said. But given Monday’s developments, she said, “it’s a moving target.”
Clovis Unified Presents Plan Wednesday
Also on Wednesday, the Clovis Unified School Board is scheduled to vote on its school reopening plan, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said.
The district and board will consider the latest recommendations and mandates from the governor and from local, state, and federal health officials, as well as feedback from students, parents, and staff, she said.
“Whatever plan we use to return to school will emphasize the educational needs of our students; and a commitment to the safety and wellness of students, staff and the community,” she said.
Fresno Unified Presents Two Choices
Fresno Unified’s plan that was announced last week offers a 100% online option to parents, who will need to reserve a seat for their child by July 31.
Otherwise, superintendent Bob Nelson said last week in a news conference, the district assumes parents will be sending their child to school for on-site instruction, although they would revert to distance learning should their class, school, or the district have to close again.
But on Monday, Nelson posted on his Facebook page that the district also has been exploring starting the school year with distance learning. He said that 8,800 of the district’s 74,000 students have asked for virtual instruction.
The district planned to provide another update this Friday, including whether the start of school might be delayed past Aug. 17.
The district clarified that the online instruction is not its iLearn Academy for students in grades 7-12.
The district’s Online Learning option will provide daily instruction with district-approved curriculum, and students will remain connected with and enrolled in their school site, spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said.
Teachers Union Seeking Answers
Fresno Teachers Association has scheduled a virtual community meeting for 3 p.m. Tuesday for parents and educators to review concerns and questions on staff and student health safety.
Educators are still grappling with many unanswered questions that are fueling anxiety, said Susan Wittrup, a school psychologist at Starr Elementary in northwest Fresno.
Wittrup said that after seeing a safety shield at a manicurist’s shop with an opening for customers to extend their hands, she suggested something similar could be useful in Fresno Unified schools when children need to be tested and adults need to be closer to them than 6 feet.
She said she was told her idea had been approved and shields had been ordered.
But not knowing what safety measures will already be in place, if and when students and staff return to schools, is worrisome, Wittrup said.
“Nobody is asking us any questions, and it’s like a ticking time bomb as we get closer to the first day of school,” she said. “It just creates anxiety.”