At least seven school districts in Shasta County will be transitioning from distance learning to full-time in person instruction by the end of October, according to the Shasta County Office of Education.
Enterprise Elementary School District, Gateway School District, Redding School District, Redding STEM Academy, Junction Elementary School District, Columbia Elementary School District, and Black Butte Elementary School District have set dates for the transition and Mountain Union is surveying families to try and transition as well.
While face to face instruction creates more risk for COVID-19 transmission, families can choose to continue learning from home at their districts through independent study or distance learning, depending on the district.
The majority of families want to resume traditional in-class instruction, Black Butte Elementary School District Superintendent Don Aust said. Black Butte will begin full time in-person instruction on Oct. 12, so long as the number of COVID-19 cases remain consistent, he added.
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At the district’s school board meetings, many families cited internet problems and conflicting work schedules as problems that are hindering their kids’ learning, he said. For a few people who were opposed to the return, they argued that a traditional schedule would compromise safety, and that a COVID-19 resurgence is just around the corner, he said, adding that schools will strictly follow health protocols.
One adult contracted COVID-19 at Black Butte on Aug. 12, Aust said, and that person was isolated. The virus was not transmitted. If someone was to catch the virus, that person would be isolated, and those who came in contact with them would quarantine for 14 days, he added.
“It potentially could shut down a small school district like ours for 14 days,” Aust said.
Since the beginning of the school year in mid-August, 19 students and 5 school staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, said Kerri Schuette, program manager at Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency.
“It’s important to know there has not been an identified case of transmission in schools,” Schuette said. “That means that the schools’ processes are working for ensuring that once a student is identified the transmission is stopping there.”
Face to face instruction is what is best to support student learning, Clay Ross, Superintendent at Junction, Columbia and Mountain Union Elementary said.
Junction Elementary School District plans to return to in-person instruction by Sept. 28. But it is also in the process of hiring staff and will return as soon as the positions are filled, Ross said.
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Junction has been operating using a flexible hybrid schedule where kindergarten through third-grade students are on campus four days a week in groups split up between morning and afternoon classes to keep physical distancing.
“The board wants to make sure we are able to meet all the educational needs of the students so as soon as that happens after Sept. 28, we will be returning,” he said. “It’s what’s best for kids. It is a little bit of a risk in terms of increased student population on campus, but we feel like we can still meet the needs with our reopening plan to keep our kids safe. They’re going to get the best education they can face to face.”
As the superintendent for Columbia Elementary and Mountain Union Elementary, Ross added that the Columbia school board voted to reopen Columbia ESD to in-person classes 5 days a week.
“The target date is Sept. 28 and I still have a small number of positions to fill and it looks very promising that we will meet that date,” Ross said in an email.
As for Mountain Union, the remote location of the district, Montgomery Creek, and smaller student population make reopening more complex, he said. Families are split. Fifty percent want to return to schools and 50% want to remain in distance learning or independent study. The district is conducting a second survey to gauge family interest in returning.
“Right now we are updating our Independent Study Policy, planning with staff and families to return to an am/pm hybrid model and interviewing staff to be certain we can safely meet the educational needs of our students and staff,” Ross said in an email.
The hybrid model is one where students split their time between being in school in-person instruction and being home for distance learning.
The district has not set a target date for the transition yet.
Redding STEM and Enterprise Elementary School District began daily face-to-face instruction on Monday, Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores said. Enterprise will have five-day in person classes for kindergarten through third grade students and hybrid learning for fourth- through eighth-grade levels since their class sizes are larger and more difficult to practice safe distancing.
Gateway School District will return to face-to-face instruction on Sept. 28 and students in the Redding School District, which is doing a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, will return on Oct. 5.
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Nada Atieh is a Report For America corps member and education reporter focusing on childhood trauma and the achievement gap for the Redding Record Searchlight. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today!