While no specific reopening plan has been released for the city’s public schools, Turlock Unified School District is allowing parents to voluntarily choose for their student to have a home-based learning model come fall.
TUSD announced on Thursday that registration for its Hybrid Independent Learning Model is open through July 24 for parents who are interested in an alternative to the Traditional Learning Model, or students learning in class, which the district hopes to reopen with come Aug. 12.
The Hybrid Independent Learning Model will see students learn at home with limited direct and indirect instruction through both scheduled interactions with their teacher at school and through technology. Thanks to a parent survey conducted at the end of May, TUSD learned that nearly 20 percent of parents were interested in this particular model, TUSD Communications Coordinator Marie Russell said.
“By opening registration this week, the district is able to determine next steps for providing this option to students and families,” Russell said, adding that the reopening plan will be announced later this month in accordance with state and local health guidelines. “TUSD hopes to open with the Traditional Learning Model, however, the district will be prepared for the Blended (Modified Traditional) or Distance Learning models, if required.”
TUSD’s Blended Learning Model would feature two days in class with three days distance learning, while the Distance Learning Model would resemble the virtual instruction students received at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring. No matter what model is ultimately decided on by the district, all parents have the option of enrolling their child in the Hybrid Independent Learning Model.
According to Russell, TUSD’s official 2020-21 Opening Plan will be released next week and is contingent upon local guidance as coronavirus cases spike in Stanislaus County. The plan will not only include the specific learning model TUSD has chosen, but will also inform parents of the various safety precautions that will be in place at each campus.
In a letter to Stanislaus County residents released on Wednesday, Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said she has worked closely with superintendents throughout the pandemic to help guide their reopening plans. At this time, she has not issued any local orders or guidance that place any further restrictions on school opening beyond the requirements established by the California Department of Health.
“All of the work I have done with school districts suggests they are well informed of the guidelines and doing everything they can to support the public health of our community,” Vaishampayan said. “…As the virus continues to spread and we learn more, we should expect the need to change our actions as individuals and as a community when needed. I will be working with school districts to monitor and respond to these developments in our local community for the next 4-5 weeks as school districts begin final preparation for the new school year.”
In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond sent on Wednesday, the California Teachers Association reiterated the concerns of its 310,000 members surrounding the reopening of schools.
In the letter, the CTA expresses the need for more funding to implement coronavirus safety measures in schools, more data transparency and accessibility, increased testing dedicated to students and staff as well as a statewide training plan.
“From the moment we pivoted to digital learning last spring, the health and safety of our students has been our top priority and continues to be. We cannot reopen schools until it is safe. With the ongoing surge in COVID-19 infections, we must take the most preventative action in the face of uncertainty to protect students, educators and our communities,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd said. “We are eager to be back with our students, but the reality of science, facts and safety cannot be ignored.”
TUSD parents who are interested in registering for the Hybrid Independent Learning Model can do so by visiting www.turlock.k12.ca.us/learningmodelconsiderations. For more information, Russell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-667-0632 ext. 2004.