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Secondary students will return to campus Monday, following court case
THS science building 1
Turlock High students will be able to take advantage of their new science building soon as they will be returning to campus on Monday and Tuesday (Photo courtesy of THS).

Junior high and high school students in Turlock Unified School District will return to campus a couple of days sooner than anticipated due to the results of a lawsuit in Southern California. 

Following a lawsuit brought by several students challenging the constitutionality of reopening framework issued by the California Department of Public Health on Jan. 14, Superior Court Judge Cynthia A. Freeland on Monday issued an order temporarily restraining the State from enforcing the CDPH framework orders, as well as statutes or laws which include the framework. 

Specifically, Judge Freeland found that the framework’s requirement that secondary students remain in distance learning while in-person instruction to elementary students was permitted denied the fundamental right to education to students in grades seven through 12. 

Upon the announcement of the restraining order, TUSD shared on social media that cohorted in-person instruction would begin on Monday, with the first cohort of secondary students attending their first full day of classes on March 22 and the second cohort returning March 23. It was originally anticipated that secondary students would likely return on March 25, had Stanislaus County recorded its second-straight week of red tier COVID numbers the Tuesday prior.

The state can file an appeal for a stay on the temporary restraining order and the parties are scheduled to return to court on March 30.

“TUSD continues to closely monitor the lawsuit in San Diego which has had statewide implications for reopening,” TUSD said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the State will respond in a manner that aligns to their professed goal of schools reopening by April 1.”

In the meantime, the ruling applies statewide and districts are not required to follow the CDPH framework — nor can the State enforce the framework against those who choose not to follow it. 

TUSD has been preparing for the return of secondary students for months and developed a reopening plan which first drew ire from some protesting parents, as it called for students to attend two half-days of school per week in two separate cohorts. However, following clarification of the Stanislaus County Public Health guidelines on contact tracing, the schedule was recently revised to allow for students on campus for two full days per week. 

While many have been advocating for secondary students to return to campus, not everyone is on board. Data from the commitment survey sent to TUSD families showed that about half of students will return to school for the two-day-per-week Blended Learning Model, while the other half plans on continuing with distance learning.

According to the survey, 46% of Dutcher Middle School students who responded opted to remain on distance learning, with 53% committing to the blended model. Turlock Junior High School saw a split of 38% distance learning versus 55% blended, while Pitman High School can expect 46% of students to remain on distance learning and 50% partaking in the blended model. Turlock High School saw 53% opt to continue distance learning and 46% commit to the blended model.

The high school reopening will move forward in phases, and if everything goes according to plan, both cohorts will alternate being on campus for an additional day on Wednesdays starting April 14 with the next phase of a full return still to be determined.