Return to Campus Nov. 2

Hughson Unified sets Nov. 2 for elementary students to return to campus under hybrid-learning model
Posted on 10/15/2020
Photo of Students at Desk

Hughson Unified’s two elementary campuses will reopen Nov. 2 to some students under a hybrid-learning format, district leaders announced this week.

 

Like all other public school districts in California, Hughson has operated under a distance-learning model since mid-March, when campuses were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, teachers at all grade levels have taught students remotely via computer.

 

Schools throughout the state have slowly moved back to face-to-face instruction this fall based on local health conditions. Stanislaus County – which has reported more than 17,000 positive COVID cases and 387 deaths this year – has been among the hot spots for the virus, though numbers finally are trending in the right direction.

 

Tuesday, the county moved into the state’s “Red” tier from the more restrictive “Purple” tier, allowing schools, businesses, churches and other organizations to cautiously begin to reopen in various ways over the next few weeks. The percent of positive results among those tested for COVID in the county is down to 3.7%, under the state’s 8% threshold for the Red tier, and the county’s adjusted case rate of the rate of 6.7 people per 100,000 residents just meets the seven in 100,000 state standard.

 

Hughson Unified leaders believe the timing is right for some younger children to return to class. Parents of students at Hughson Elementary and Fox Road Elementary were surveyed in late September about their preferences between keeping their children on distance learning or moving to a hybrid system, which blends two days of face-to-face instruction with three days of distance learning. Two-thirds chose the hybrid model.

 

Tuesday night, Hughson school trustees gave Superintendent Brenda Smith the go-ahead to move to hybrid learning for those families who want it. Families who prefer distance learning will stay on that system at least until the end of the second trimester in February.

 

Students at Hughson High and Ross Middle School – locations where scheduling is more complicated – will remain on distance learning until at least January, Smith said.

 

Under the hybrid model, elementary classes will be divided in half. At HES, kindergarten through third-grade classes are limited to 24 students, meaning approximately 12 students will be together with a teacher. At Fox Road, fourth- and fifth-grade classes are capped at 32 students, with about 16 allowed in class at one time during the hybrid period.

 

Children whose last names begin with the letters A through L will come to campus on Monday and Tuesday; children who last names begin with M through Z will attend in person on Thursday and Friday.

 

Two instructors at each grade level will remain on distance learning. Any students in those teachers’ current classes who move to hybrid learning will have new instructors, Smith said.

 

Hughson will invest about $36,000 in robotic technology to aid teachers and students in the 30 hybrid classrooms, Smith said. A voice-activated robot called Owl will be installed in each class and hooked up to the teacher’s computer. Owl allows students learning from home that day to see the teacher and hear questions from students in the room.

 

Until they get the Owls in place, Smith said a typical hybrid schedule will start at 8 a.m. with teachers working with online-only students until 9:15. Students attending class in person will be there from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Teachers would have online office hours after that to help hybrid students working from home.

 

Buses will run with capacity limits on how many students can ride together. Free meals will be offered at school. Free food also will continue to be available for parents of distance-learning students to pick up at Hughson Elementary or Fox Road daily between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., or at remote drop-off sites.

 

Smith said the time between now and Nov. 2 will be busy as staff works out scheduling and other hybrid-related details.

 

“There’s going to be a transition, just like with distance learning,” she said. “We’re going to need a couple of weeks to work out the kinks, I’m sure. We’ll have time to do that before we get into the holiday season.”

 

Throughout the pandemic, Smith said the focus has remained on ways to deliver education in a way that best protects staff and students. Though some parents who were surveyed expressed a desire to return to in-person learning five days a week, that’s not practical at this time, Smith said.

 

“We will base decisions on health and safety,” she said. “Reopening must be done in a safe manner. We are looking forward to our students returning to a full week’s schedule. Until then, this is a step in the right direction.”

 

The groups of students in class – known as cohorts – will stay together for recess and lunch. Desks will be spaced at least 6 feet. Students will have their own instructional materials. Classrooms will be thoroughly wiped down and cleaned daily. Each class will have a designated area outside for recess and PE instruction as well as a place to sit for lunch.

 

All teachers and students in third, fourth and fifth grades will be required to wear face coverings, which are highly recommended for younger students as well. The district will provide face coverings for anyone who needs them. Plexiglass shields already have been installed in office areas and hand sanitizer will be available throughout all campuses. There will be touchless thermometers available for health checks. Heating and air conditioning units have had upgraded filters installed.

 

Under state guidelines, all staff – teachers as well as those who work in the offices or other departments – will be tested once every two months for COVID. Students are not required to be tested. Students showing symptoms of cold, flu or COVID will be sent home and advised to check with their family physicians before returning to class.

 

A positive COVID test for a staff member or student could lead to a 14-day quarantine of a specific class or the closure of the whole school, Smith said, depending upon the circumstances.

 

Like other school districts, Smith said Hughson will continue to work with and take direction from the Stanislaus County Department of Health.

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