Focus Group 09/29/2021

Hughson leaders offer range of information during focus group
Posted on 09/30/2021
Superintendent Smith

If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud COVID has cast over the school system, Brenda Smith believes it is how the Hughson Unified School District’s students and staff have managed to persevere despite so many challenges confronting them in the past year and a half.


Positive COVID cases – which spiked after school began in mid-August – finally have started to recede. Quarantines have leveled off. Students and staff continue to embrace the various health guidelines intended to protect them. The focus, once again, is on education.


“We’re very excited we’re back in school and that we have our kids back with us. We’re ready to meet all the challenges in front of us,” Smith said Wednesday at the first of three focus group meetings planned for the 2021-22 school year. (Parents and community members who would like to see and hear the Zoom presentation can click on this link on the district’s website.)


The superintendent said she is pleased with the work that already has been done to “mitigate learning loss, which we know happened” while students were forced to learn remotely from home beginning in March 2020 and lasting through part of last year.


“We’re likely to be working on the impact of the last year and a half for the next decade,” Smith acknowledged. “It’s been quite a journey for our community, our students and our staff. I’m incredibly proud of how patient and resilient everyone has been.”


Eric Petersen, the district’s director of student support services, later shared the many mentoring, early intervention and other academic programs that Hughson has put in place to help students. He also reminded the audience of the various mental health and emotional support resources available to students and staff. The district website contains a link to all the mental health programs.


Smith said COVID cases have steadily decreased in the district. Part of the credit involves increased testing that has helped to more quickly identify students or staff members who may be positive and allow the district to efficiently trace anyone who may have been exposed on campus. The need for quarantining is determined by the length of potential exposure, whether the exposed student or staff member was wearing a face covering and the vaccination status of the exposed person.


Smith thanked families for keeping students home who are not feeling well and often getting them tested for COVID before they return to campus.


“It’s been a big help that families are communicating with school sites if someone is sick or has possibly been exposed,” she said. “It’s better for those students to stay home.”


Earlier this month, the district unveiled a new COVID dashboard so community members can track what’s happening in the district. The statistics are updated each Monday.


Smith said the district’s layered approach to COVID prevention includes the strategies most are familiar with by now -- face coverings in buildings, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, updated air filtration systems, seating charts in classrooms and regular testing for anyone thought to be exposed.


“The goal was to have our schools be open and have our students be safe,” she said.


The district also has partnered with the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency and the Family Resource Center to offer free COVID vaccinations to community members. The first clinic was held Monday at Hughson High School; others are scheduled for Oct. 18 and Nov. 8. People can get first or second doses of the Pfizer vaccine or, for those who are eligible, booster shots.


Other presentations at Wednesday’s focus group included updates from Assistant Superintendent Carrie Duckart on student academic achievement and a recap of the district’s budget status from Cheryl Phan, the director of business services.

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