The elementary school sites in the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) could be populated with students in the near future. After completion of the Elementary Waiver that was sent to the California Department of Public Health last week, the district is now waiting on the approval. The waiver has already been approved by the county.
“Once we get that back the plan will be to meet with the teachers,” said RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella. “We will negotiate the effects and if there are any impacts of them coming back and having kids coming to the school.”
The planning has already been done as they had to submit that plan with their application.
“So things like we are buying shields for desks that is an added extra that was not required that we are doing,” explained Facella. “We had to plan what classrooms might look like; for instance the plan calls for Cohort A and Cohort B. A would go two days a week and B would go two days a week and all will be online one day a week so that the school would have a thorough cleaning opportunity.”
Parents will still have the option to not send their children to school and they can enroll their kids in the virtual instruction program. Provided RUSD receives the approval from the state, they will verify those that want to participate in the virtual program. The district already had some applications for the virtual program as they were preparing to open schools when the school year started. Then they were not allowed to open so they did not need to use them. However students still have time to apply for the virtual program.
“Because this whole situation has been so fluid and changing constantly I really have been focused on what is in front of us,” stated Facella. “And not jumping too far into the future because like we did with school starting. We did all that planning for school to start and then in three weeks we had to change everything and replan everything. We are taking it really slow and taking it one step at a time.”
The first students to return to campus will be transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at half the class capacity. The second half will go to class another day. After a few weeks after the kindergarteners start then they will bring in first through third graders and a couple weeks after that they are looking at allowing the fourth and fifth graders to return to campus.
Facella expressed that even if Stanislaus County goes into the red tier which would allow schools to reopen, RUSD will still be very conservative and very cautious and continue to return students to school in phases.
Currently all high risk small groups like Special Education students and English Learners are allowed to have instruction on campus that started last week. Riverbank High School has also had some seniors return to campus for some additional support to ensure they graduate.
“We don’t want anyone to not graduate because they can’t get the work done at home or they don’t have a hot spot,” noted Facella. “They (non-English speaking students) can sit online but if nobody is helping them understand or comprehend what is being said they are really not getting any benefits. So we are looking at bringing them in.”
They do not attend classes all day but only for a short period of time rarely exceeding 90 minutes. The teachers will still be conducting their classes through distance learning.
The biggest struggle that the district has faced through distance learning is that not all the students are attending classes online. However, on a positive note Facella expressed that the teachers have been getting more creative and tech savvy.
“I would say by and large families in Riverbank appreciate the teachers from my observations now and before,” remarked Facella. “I will say that it is very challenging for families, it is very challenging for students and it is very challenging for teachers right now. I think as long as everybody understands that none of us wanted this and none of us are prepared for this. We are all just doing our best and that is all we ask of anybody, parents, teachers, students. Do your best.”