ELK GROVE, Calif. — As coronavirus infection rates spike, what schools will look like come fall is still uncertain. Still, school officials are planning for different scenarios, including the state’s fifth-largest district in the area: Elk Grove Unified.
It’s uncharted territory to blend distance learning and in-class instruction amid a pandemic. The plans, by nature, will have to fluctuate and follow the community’s health conditions and follow state and county guidelines. In short, it’s complicated.
“We're never going to be what where we were in January. I fully believe we're going to be better in January because we've learned so much,” said Superintendent Christopher Hoffman, during a board meeting Tuesday night.
That learning continues. If students are back in EGUSD this fall, face coverings, 6-foot distancing, and wellness checks will be a part of campus life.
“But, bringing everyone back isn't possible,” said Mark Cerutti, EGUSD Deputy Superintendent, Education Services, and Schools.
District officials, still exploring ideas, presented working options for the upcoming school year. For most of the district’s 63,000 students, the transitional model option will blend distance learning, independent study, and in-class learning with smaller class sizes and staggered schedules.
In one example of a school week for elementary children, students and staff would spend Monday distance learning. For the rest of the week, the student body will be split into cohorts. Cohort A would spend the morning on campus. After that group takes lunch and leaves to do independent studies, Cohort B would transition onto campus. The late part of the day would consist of distance learning.
“I think it’s going to be hard,” said Kendra Saenz, an EGUSD parent with a baby, and a child in elementary school and high school.
Saenz says she’s overwhelmed at the prospect of juggling the staggered schedules along with her work schedule. Officials, too, say there’s plenty of work to be done—solving challenges when it comes to busing schedules, meals, and special education.
“At this point, it’s all new. So it’s different. I don’t really know how to feel about anything yet,” Saenz said, adding that she appreciates that the district is coming up with ideas in uncharted territory.
Other parents worry it’s too soon to re-open schools, thus risking virus exposure. Until there’s a vaccine, Mischele Mullen wants to stick with distance learning.
“They should continue it that way to keep the kids safe and keep the teachers safe too,” Mullen said.
A survey was sent out to parents to gauge their choice. They’ll be reaching out to families throughout July as they develop schedules for the fall. The district will also be meeting with bargaining groups as it irons out plans for the upcoming school year.
Adding to the pressure, district officials must also meet learning continuity and attendance benchmarks to secure state funding.
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