The Hollister School District is preparing for the reopening of in-person classrooms in August while considering three different scenarios to start the 2020-21 year.
Superintendent Diego Ochoa told San Benito Live on Monday that district officials are planning for an August return to campuses for students and staff members. The three scenarios under consideration are the following:
- All students return full time to campuses
- A rotation occurs with half of a classroom’s students at school and half at home
- Continue distance learning from homes
Ochoa made it clear the distance learning option is not preferred by the district. He said the only realistic obstacle to getting back to campuses is a public health order of some kind.
“I think a pretty fair assessment on my part is to say that if our public health official will allow us to have students return to campus, we will – absolutely,” Ochoa said.
He said it’s more likely to expect a blended model, the second option under consideration. He envisioned the prospect of having classrooms split up – to abide by social-distancing guidelines – with half the students on campus certain days and the other half on other days. That might mean one grouping goes to school Monday and Tuesday, then the other group Thursday and Friday – allowing for Wednesday as a dedicated sanitation day to go with daily cleanings.
“It would be very difficult to have all students return full time,” Ochoa said.
Other challenges are under discussion, such as use of face coverings. Ochoa said face coverings would create challenges.
“The mask itself, if not used properly, could actually increase the likelihood that kids spread germs,” Ochoa said, adding that it could happen when students might set them on surfaces.
He said students 12 and under are not required to wear masks under existing law, basically meaning seventh- and eighth-graders could still have a face-cover mandate.
He said schools will have “very strict guidelines for handwashing” as well, and settings where students gather, like lunchrooms, will observe social-distancing rules.
Otherwise, Ochoa emphasized the district is “placing a very high importance on getting all of our teachers ready for the challenge of the 20-21 school year.” That means teachers will spend June 1-11 in training for next school year while students complete end-of-year review packets.
Ochoa acknowledged distance learning brings obstacles.
“What we’re finding is, we need to see our students,” Ochoa said. “We need to follow up and establish opportunities for our kids to get help with their work.”
Ochoa said under distance learning, students’ participation rate is high, “but our middle school completion-of-work rates are not where we want them to be.”
Additionally, many parents in the district are essential workers who are juggling work and home life, he said.
On another note, he mentioned how grant assistance from California Teleconnect Fund and a Sprint/T-mobile program has helped the district purchase 1,000 internet wi-fi hotspots – mobile internet devices – for families who don’t have adequate access. That could amount to reaching 2,500 students in the district with unlimited data usage.
Superintendent Diego Ochoa wrote the following email to district parents late last week:
The Hollister School District notified parents of plans in place for a prospective return to campuses in August.
Superintendent Diego Ochoa sent the following email to district parents late last week:
Dear Parents and Students,
I hope this message finds you in good health. I want to thank all parents for their dedication to their child’s education in these trying times. As you know, our wonderful teachers and staff have adapted their teaching and stayed connected with your students. Everyone’s efforts have been incredible.
As we approach the end of this school year, we will implement an End of Year Review in which all students will receive student review packets for the weeks of June 1- June 5 and June 8- 11. These packets will be available for pick up at all school sites during these weeks. Teachers will not hold Zoom or Google Meet lessons for the weeks of June 1- June 5 and June 8- 11.
The school district is working to prepare for the reopening of schools in August. We will develop the “new normal” for teaching and learning in 2020-2021, which will almost certainly include social distancing while on campus. For the weeks of June 1- June 5 and June 8- 11, the Hollister School District will provide teachers and staff with training on: (1) Orton-Gillingham reading strategies (2) Eureka Math (3) Benchmark Advance reading and writing (4) Constructing Meaning English Language Development and (5) Google Classroom.
As we look ahead, now more than ever, teachers need to have the training and support in skillful implementation of the research based strategies that are outlined in our LCAP. Teachers also need time to plan for the “new normal” before we return for instruction in the fall. Our teachers will receive training and plan for the new normal during the weeks of June 1- June 5 and June 8- June 11.
We are excited to be implementing the End of Year Review with all students in grades TK-8. We strongly believe that when we return to school in August 2020, our district will thrive because we have provided our teachers and staff with training and planning time to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. We also feel strongly that our students will continue to benefit from student work packets that will be available for pick up for all students grades TK-8 at all our school sites. Please contact your school principal with any questions regarding the End of Year Review student work packets that your child will receive!
Superintendent, Hollister School District