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Central Unified School District officials, with an eye on rapidly rising rates of coronavirus infection in the Fresno area, decided Tuesday night to provide online instruction only when school resumes in August.

The decision to resume distance learning only was made after Central and other school district officials on late Monday heard the latest warnings from Fresno County health officials about the need to maintain student and staff safety as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to climb in the county.

Until Monday’s Zoom teleconference call, Central’s administrators had been prepared to recommend a “stage 3” hybrid schedule, with students in class two days and at home three days each week.

But Central’s recommendation shifted to “stage 2,” returning to the distance learning model that was put in place in mid-March when the pandemic arrived in the Valley.

Less COVID, More Classes on Campus

Superintendent Andy Alvarado said that if the spread of COVID-19 slows in coming weeks or months, the district will be able to slowly open campuses to classes.

“In the next few days and weeks, we will be working diligently with our certificated staff to make our distance learning robust for students and manageable for parents, while also providing technology on an as-needed basis,” he said in a statement released by the district.

Teachers will get additional training for online instruction prior to the start of the year, and students will get any needed assistance in improving their online learning skills, the district said.

Online Home School Still An Option

Central also has started a new Online Home School to accommodate those families who want their children to be instructed at home.

It’s unclear how many of the district’s 16,000 students may sign up for the online school, which is open to children in grades K-12.

The Central Unified board of trustees voted 6-0 in favor of the distance learning recommendation at Tuesday night’s after hearing several hours of public comment from parents, students, and educators who were divided on whether students should return to the classroom next month or resume distance learning.

Other Districts Yet to Decide

Clovis Unified trustees will consider a school reopening plan that will be presented at Wednesday night’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Fresno Unified has scheduled an update that will be announced Friday on its school reopening proposals.

Last week, Superintendent Bob Nelson said parents would have two options — online-only instruction that they would need to reserve for their children or on-campus instruction five days a week.

But this week he posted on his Facebook page that Fresno Unified might have to start the school year with distance learning because of the virus.

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