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All School Sites Open For Riverbank Unified
This line up of students at Mesa Verde Elementary School is in front of the school cafeteria, eagerly awaiting the signal to head out to their classroom on Thursday morning, March 18, the first day they were allowed back on campus. Ric McGinnis/The News

Riverbank Unified School District – like many other districts in Stanislaus County – has taken measures to open up classrooms at all school sites for in person instruction. This past Thursday, Mesa Verde Elementary and California Avenue Elementary returned to attending classes five days a week for all grades from TK to fifth grade. Cardozo Middle School welcomed the sixth grade cohorts to the hybrid model of instruction on Monday, March 22 and grades 7 through 12 will begin the hybrid model of learning this Thursday, March 25.

“We are very happy to be able to provide in person instruction daily for our students at the elementary and are happy to report that things have gone smoothly so far,” stated District Superintendent Christine Facella. “We do have the added protections of desk shields for every student in the district.”

According to a COVID-19 update from the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency this past Friday, the positive rates have dropped below 5 percent which helped get the county into the Red Tier. They recommend everyone to continue to follow all safety precautions to prevent the spread including wearing a mask, washing hands often, getting tested and receiving the vaccination.

“This year has been challenging, with adjustment after adjustment and the teachers have risen to each new challenge, with the ultimate goal of serving students in a safe and welcoming environment,” expressed Mesa Verde Elementary Principal Kimberly Ott. “Teachers are using voice amplifiers so that all students can hear them through their masks. Many are using standing desks since they take up less room in the classroom and offer more places for students.”

At the Mesa Verde campus last week, cars were lined up for blocks dropping off their students. At times, the vehicle line stretched from in front of the school campus all the way up Mesa Avenue to Highway 108.

Principal Ott delineated several classroom protocols that would now be in effect at Mesa Verde: All students to get temperature checked upon arrival before student exits their car, or while exiting school bus. In addition, she said when students arrive in the morning, at either gate, they will be using hand sanitizer. When they go through their gate, they will pick up their breakfast and proceed to their designated area to eat it.

In the fall, elementary students engaged in the hybrid model that began with kindergarten, then first through third, next was fourth and fifth grades. They had Cohort A that attended classes all day Monday and Thursday and Cohort B on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Wednesday all students participated in distance learning. On Thursday, March 18 elementary school students in both Cohorts were combined and returned to instruction on campus all day, five days a week.

“Many parents have shared with us how happy they are to have their students back on campus,” added Ott. “The students were very happy to return. The teachers were prepared and ready for students. They were eager to welcome students back to campus so that they could provide the consistency of the classroom environment.”

The halls at Cardozo Middle School were bustling once again this past Monday as sixth graders returned to campus. The middle schoolers will be attending classes in the hybrid model with Cohorts A and B learning on different days and on Wednesday all students will engage in virtual learning.

Meanwhile, students at Riverbank High School will return to campus Thursday, March 25 split into two cohorts.

Cohort A will be attending classes on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Cohort B students will attend on Tuesdays and Fridays, on the same schedule. Both cohorts will participate online on Wednesdays, with distance learning like has been going on since the beginning of school last fall.

At both campuses, students and staff must wear masks at all times.

Superintendent Facella added that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently changed guidance on social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet so the possibility of middle school and high school students to return to class five days a week may be possible in the near future.

“We will need to look at class sizes and measure classrooms before this determination can be made,” noted Facella. “I don’t expect any changes to happen right away but possibly after spring break.”


News Correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this report.

Fifth grade Mesa Verde Elementary School teacher Vincent Fauria took this photo to show his students hard at work in their classroom. They returned to the campus last Thursday, March 18. Photo Contributed