Junior high and high school students in Turlock Unified School District could return to campus for in-person learning as soon as next week following tier assignment information released on Tuesday, which showed Stanislaus County with its first red numbers since last November.
TUSD has been preparing for the return of secondary students 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.
Although data released by the state this week shows that Stanislaus County still has a daily case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents and remains in the purple tier, its positivity rate and health equity metric met the accelerated progression guidance which helped the county record the first of two weeks with red tier numbers that are needed in order to reopen secondary schools.
Should Stanislaus County continue to display red tier numbers next Tuesday, TUSD will return secondary students to campus March 25.
“With that said, surveillance testing is more critical than ever before as well as other mitigation efforts that include masks, social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene,” Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan said in a statement posted to the TUSD Facebook page. “I hope you find this new information as promising as I do.”
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.
TUSD Trustee Jeff Cortinas suggested during Tuesday night’s Board meeting that since only about half of the total secondary students will be returning to campus, perhaps the phases can move along more quickly.
“If they are that low of classrooms on the A and B schedule, I would encourage the district to do more,” Cortinas said. “We’re down to our last 40 days.”
Students in grades TK-6 returned to the classroom fully with safeguards in place on Monday, combining cohorts to allow full, socially-distanced classrooms. It was an encouraging step as secondary students prepare to hopefully do the same.
“I just appreciate how much hard work has gone into this,” Trustee Mary Jackson said. “I know we’ve heard from frustrated parents and I've heard from supportive parents who are saying stay home or go back...I’m extremely happy that we are moving forward. We all need to continue to move forward.”