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New School Year Begins With In-Person Instruction
rusd summer pix
As the sun begins setting in the evenings at Jacob Myers Park, patrons of all ages take advantage of cooling temperatures to use the playground apparatus there, though the days of summer for youngsters are quickly winding down. School resumes in Riverbank on Aug. 5. Ric McGinnis/The News

Summer is coming to an end as school will be back in session for Riverbank Unified School District next week. Students are scheduled to report to local campuses on Thursday, Aug. 5 for the first day of school. With the new set of guidelines from the Public Health Department, the district is anticipating the return of the majority of students from all grade levels for in-person instruction to start the 2021-22 school year.

Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) Superintendent Christine Facella explained that all students and staff on campus must wear masks indoors but do not have to wear them outside. Students will still have to wear masks on the bus but they will no longer have to socially distance.

Last year the students socially distanced with three feet between them on the bus and in the classrooms. Teachers removed items from their classrooms last school year to accommodate more students due to the distancing.

In June the district offered families vaccinations and currently, Facella is working with Golden Valley Health to provide opportunities for families to obtain vaccines during back-to-school nights. Vaccinations are not required by the district to attend school in person.

This week there will be an Eagle Round-Up at Cardozo Middle School on Friday, July 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Riverbank High School will host Bruin Day on Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for grades 10 to 12. Freshmen can participate in Link Crew Day and orientation on Thursday, July 29 starting at 9 a.m.

The grab and go lunches are no longer recommended so the cafeteria will return to normal food service which will include more options. Students and staff will still eat outside.

RUSD is offering students a Remote Learning option to serve the ones that will not return to the classroom.

“It (Remote Learning Option) follows the state established guidelines for when they have to meet with the teacher, how often they have to meet with a teacher and they have to have continued satisfactory progress to stay on that option,” said Facella. “Parents can register for that option and then there will be a meeting set up with a teacher or administrator to discuss it.”

Whether students attend in-person instruction or remote learning the curriculum will be the California state standards as it has been for the past several years and according to Facella there will be no change to the content standards.

Through COVID funds the district has added a new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Laura Granger that will lead the Learning Recovery Team. The team was developed to assist the students that have fallen behind from the distance learning last year. The team will look at the students’ academic data to identify the strengths and weaknesses so that they can be placed where they need to be for student success.

The district has also added more ELD (English Language Development) teachers at the high school and middle school to help support the English learners for the upcoming school year. The goal is to help the students get reclassified to fully English proficient. This will also allow them to take electives instead of ELD classes.

“We are really excited about that (Learning Recovery and ELD teachers),” stated Facella. “They (Dr. Tapia and Granger) will be working closely together to provide all educational needs to students in the district. We are really looking forward to having students back at school.”

The students will be given a diagnostic assessment in the next few weeks. The test will assist the educators in knowing exactly how to help the students.

Mesa Verde Elementary has a new Principal this year. Lupe Velasquez has taken on the position at Mesa.

With staffing shortages the afterschool program will be modified and have limited space this year at all school sites. The district, along with other districts and several businesses, has had its share of staffing challenges. They are in need of afterschool program staff and bus drivers. Although the afterschool program will be limited to a certain number of students they are hopeful that when they bring in more employees more kids will be able to participate. The district offers paid training for bus drivers. Interested parties can call the district office for more information.

“I am looking forward to being able to serve students in closer to normal conditions,” added Facella. “We know we still have COVID impacts but we really want all kids to come back to school because we really want to be able to serve them and do justice by them and in order to do that they need to be in person. Distance learning for most kids is not the greatest option. I am looking forward to seeing kids on campus and looking forward to the possibility of school events returning in a couple of months down the road. I am hopeful for that. I am also hopeful that teachers and staff are really happy to have the kids back as well and ready to go.”