HUSD discusses reopening plans

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Diane Sieker photo

School reopenings and the options available were the main subjects covered at the Hemet Unified School District board meeting held Tuesday, July 21. The meeting was available to the public as an audio-only live feed accessed via the district’s website and hosted on YouTube.

In an introduction in an online document outlining the procedures, Christi Barrett, superintendent of HUSD, said, “These last few months we have been preparing for what the reopening of our schools will look like and how we can create a safe learning environment for students and staff. The intent of this document is to provide our families, students and staff insight into what the 2020-2021 school year will look like based on the information we have today. The information provided takes into account orders set by the State of California Department of Public Health and Riverside County Public Health that Hemet Unified School District must follow. In addition, our plan includes guidelines set by the California Department of Education.”

In forming the policies covered, parent input was taken into consideration. Offered June 8, a survey allowed parents to choose more than one option, and the results shared: 59% of respondents were interested in students coming to school every day for class and 39% of parents were interested in students receiving daily instruction provided by a teacher online.

The survey, coupled with state and county health mandates, gave the board guidance in forming their reopening options.

In following the state and county mandates, when the 2020-2021 school year does begin, on-campus school will look much different from previous years due to the new health and safety measures. For families which do not want their students to attend on campus, an online option will be available.

Staff, students and parents should not attend on-campus classes if they show signs of illness or a fever.

Social distancing will be practiced at all school locations.

Based on orders from the state of California and Riverside County Public Health, students will be kept in smaller group settings, desks will be spaced as far apart as possible, prepackaged food will be served, large gatherings such as pep rallies, assemblies and dances will be restricted and students that may not be feeling well will be monitored closely. Field trips are not currently recommended.

As schools reopen, students and staff may experience fear and anxiety because of COVID-19. The district said it is committed to supporting students’ social emotional wellness and offering resources to ensure students transition back to school smoothly.

Athletics will be reviewed and may be offered as outlined in county, state and CIF guidelines.

HUSD will offer an online learning option through its new school The Academy of Innovation. Students will receive instruction 100% online, allowing them to engage in quality instruction in the comfort and safety of their own homes with quality instruction, accredited teachers, concurrent college courses and counselors.

Tracy Chambers, assistant superintendent of HUSD, said in the meeting agenda that the administration recommended that HUSD open school Aug. 17, using the full online instructional model from Aug. 17 through Nov. 6, at which time the board of education will determine if it is safe to transition to a blended learning model. Should conditions improve before Nov. 6, the board of education may make a determination to transition to a hybrid or traditional instructional model.

In the hybrid model, students attend part of the week in-person and the rest of the week online. With the traditional model, students attend five days a week.

The online model involves interaction, instruction and check-ins via computer. Computers, hotspots, tech support, teacher devices and other technology will be provided by the district.

As Sage, Anza and Aguanga lack connectivity for the internet, a low-tech option is being considered by the board to address these issues.

Megan Haley, president of the governing board said, “Tuesday’s board meeting and the decisions made for all schools in the district are a reflection of the current times in California. The students of our local schools of Hamilton and Cottonwood will be serviced through an online learning opportunity in which students will be provided with a device and internet connectivity to be able to meet their needs. Students and families should expect to connect with their teachers five days per week for a minimum of 3-4 hours. The board has decided to revisit opening all schools Nov. 6 and will make a decision on how to proceed based on updated information, keeping student and staff safety in mind.”

The next regular meeting of the governing board will occur Tuesday, Aug. 11. The open session will begin at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit the HUSD at https://www.hemetusd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=254711&type=d&pREC_ID=582624.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.