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COVID closes three TUSD campuses
Schools return to distance learning amid staff outbreaks
Brown school teaching COVID
While Turlock Unified School District elementary students just recently returned to in-class instruction like at Brown School with 4th grade teacher Chelsea Alton as pictured above, three other elementary campuses (Julien, Cunningham and Crowell) have had to send students home through Dec. 18 due to staff testing positive for COVID-19 (Photo contributed).

Three Turlock Unified School District elementary campuses have returned to distance learning this month following COVID-19 outbreaks among staff. 

Similar situations at Crowell, Cunningham and Julien elementary schools led TUSD to announce each school will return to distance learning through Dec. 18. According to Chief Communication Coordinator Marie Russell, the decision to return to distance learning was not the result of a “trigger” as defined by the California Department of Public Health (i.e., when multiple classes have confirmed cases or 5% of all students and staff have confirmed cases), but rather a staffing consideration at each campus. 

“Unfortunately, due to the individual’s proximity and the duration of contact, several office employees were considered close contacts as were other staff; these colleagues were notified today,” Russell said in a memo to the Cunningham community. Similar alerts were sent to the other two elementary campuses upon each respective individual testing positive for COVID-19. 

TUSD elementary schools are currently operating under a blended learning model approved via state waiver, with students in small cohorts attending class in-person two days per week and from home the remaining three days. 

Students in TK-K returned to class the week of Oct. 26, grades 1-3 returned Nov. 9 and grades 4-6 returned Nov. 30. Since then, eight classes and 13 small learning cohorts have closed and returned to distance learning following COVID-19 outbreaks, with none substantial enough to cause a full campus closure. 

According to Russell, TUSD will be launching a COVID-19 dashboard in January so that parents, students, staff and other stakeholders can stay up-to-speed with how many classes at each school have been closed due to the virus. 

While the TUSD Board of Trustees has already approved the district’s plan to return secondary students in grades 7-12 to in-person learning, the change will not take place until Stanislaus County is back in the red tier. 

The district originally planned for parents of secondary students to fill out a commitment waiver stating whether or not their child would return to the blended model by Oct. 28, but will now be releasing the survey Dec. 17 through Jan. 8. There is no set return date for TUSD’s older students, but families will be able to view the proposed blended learning schedule when it is posted to the district website on Wednesday. 

In January, students in grades 7-12 will begin being placed in their learning cohorts.