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Private schools offering different learning models
Sacred Heart distance learning
Sacred Heart School teacher Kevin Crivelli shares a virtual selfie with his students (Photo contributed).

Turlock’s private schools are adjusting to the start of a new school year during the pandemic.

Sacred Heart School began its first day of school with distance learning on Monday, while Turlock Christian has pushed their opening date to Sept. 8 with plans to welcome students back onto campus in small learning “pods.”

Turlock’s private catholic school’s first day of distance learning was a “success,” Sacred Heart shared on social media, with parents sharing photos in the comment section of their children attending class virtually — in uniform, of course.

Sacred Heart has submitted its waiver application and reopening plan to public health for approval, but waivers to reopen elementary schools will not be accepted until the COVID-19 transmission rate in Stanislaus County falls to an acceptable level.

“We pray we will be with our students in person soon,” Sacred Heart shared with parents and students on Facebook. “Until then, we will remain strong from a distance!”

As TC also awaits word on a waiver for its elementary students, the school is providing parents with three options when classes resume on Sept. 8 — students can participate in online distance instruction from their home, an independent study/homeschool model for elementary students or participation in an on-campus distance learning camp with small cohorts of their peers.

“Turlock Christian School is committed to on-campus, in-class education. Our destination, our ‘True North,’ from which we will not vary is in-person education. It is our intention to be the first school back on campus the first day possible. Unfortunately, in Stanislaus County, that day is not here yet,” Head of School William Hoyt said in an email to the campus community, pointing out the watchlist restrictions. “...we are forced to take a detour. While never the intended nor the best route, sometimes detours turn out far better than expected.”

TC’s distance learning camp option will be made available to both elementary and secondary students and is permitted under new state guidelines released last week which allow for “cohorts” to be utilized by public and private institutions. These cohorts must be stable groups of no more than 14 youth and two supervising adults who stay together for all activities and refrain from contact with others while in the public setting.

According to the state guidance, cohorts are acceptable in supervised care environments, like licensed child care facilities, licensed exempt child care programs, supervised programs on a school site while a school is not in session or is providing curriculum in a distance-learning format, or where some educational services are being offered to a subgroup of students as identified by a local educational agency on a school campus. Turlock Unified School District is also exploring the use of cohorts to provide better learning resources for its Special Education students.

TC’s distance learning camp will provide daily live video instruction and opportunities for personalized, virtual interaction with teachers. The cohorts will consist of 12 students who, according to Hoyt’s letter, will be able to “work together, stay on task, complete activities and assignments, begin homework and spend time with peers.”

Staff members will oversee each pod and health screenings will take place for both campuses from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. everyday. Live online instruction will last from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with age-appropriate breaks, and students who wish to remain on campus to work on homework and other class-related, skill-building activities may do so until 3 p.m.