This is not just the first week of the new 2020-21 school year but a first for many things due to COVID-19. The first day of school will be this Thursday, Aug. 6 with the new distance learning model in effect for all students in Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD). With considerable controversy throughout the country whether schools should reopen or not, RUSD has followed suit with other districts in the county to start the new school year with distance learning.
Last week and this week, students at all school sites including Riverbank High School, Cardozo Middle School, California Avenue Elementary, and Mesa Verde Elementary will have obtained their Chromebooks along with a few supplies and student workbooks.
“Parents and students lined up in their vehicles with masks on and patiently waited to receive their Chromebooks,” added RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella regarding the pick-up. “The process went smoothly and we delivered over 300 Chromebook just on Monday.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Richard Tapia discussed distance learning at a school board meeting on July 28. The students will study online with assignments that must be completed in order to be considered present for the day. As in a normal classroom setting attendance will be taken daily and student engagement will be monitored. Parents have been asked to call the school office when their child is sick and will not be participating in the online learning. Parents were responsible to report absences during the regular school year as well.
“The law has mandated a specific number of minutes for each grade span for which students must engage in learning,” stated Facella. “Some of this learning will be live online with the teacher and some will be assignments to do on their own.”
Facella explained that Barbara Brown, Student Services Director also shared information about the availability of PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) for staff and students if they are allowed to return to school at some point during the 2020-21 school year.
There was also a board meeting held this past Tuesday, Aug. 4 via Zoom.
While the school year will begin with the online platform, there was the traditional visit to the high school campus by incoming students for some necessities.
For the ‘Bruin Day’ this past week, it was a drive-through event.
“Well, first off Bruin Day was Bruin Days this year,” said RHS Principal Greg Diaz. “We had to break it up into two days in order to follow distancing and contact guidelines, which made for a couple of long, hot days standing in the sun. But overall, I think the RHS staff pulled it off and we were able to get important information to the students and families.”
Stations were set up along the west parking lot on Claus Road continuing around to the north through the bus circle and out onto Patterson Road. The freshman class started things off Thursday morning, July 30, receiving their class list, Chromebook computers and other necessary items to ensure their success in the upcoming school year.
Sophomore class members followed after noon, then juniors and seniors came in the morning and afternoon on Friday.
“This is going to be something completely new for everyone, but I got the impression that most people are aware of that and are at the very least willing to do what they can to make the best of normal school in the most abnormal of circumstances,” added Diaz about the new 2020-21 school year.
Back to school has a different meaning this year as students will not physically been in the classroom for the start of the new school year. What this is going to be like for all involved remains to be seen but as Diaz expressed it has already been a bit hectic and stressful.
“Like I said, this is new for us all and there will be issues that arise that we simply cannot prepare for until they present themselves,” he pointed out. “With that said, the RHS staff has rallied together over the summer to make sure we’ve got procedures in place so we can begin this school year as smoothly as possible. It is going to be imperative that families stay in communication with the school and their children’s teachers during this process. To all RHS families, please reach out to the front office to make sure we have the most updated contact information so you can stay informed as things change; and if we’ve learned anything during the last five months it’s that change comes quickly.”
Teachers were to report to campus for prep days to begin on Monday, Aug. 3 with students beginning classes on Thursday, Aug. 6.
News correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this story.