Phased return to in-person instruction planned

Winters Joint Unified School District building. Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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Winters Joint Unified School District administrators are going back to the drawing board to reconfigure what the hybrid school schedules will look like. Meanwhile, the school district will be sending out the next family survey to gather important, current information from families who have students at Winters schools.

Board of Trustee members heard the steps for a phased return to in-person instruction from Assistant Superintendent Sandra Ayón at the Oct. 3 Winters JUSD school board meeting.

With Yolo County now in the red tier they are working to ensure they are ready for students to return to school sites later this fall. Ayón said that although the county is currently in the number range of the orange tier, we are not permitted to move to the orange tier until we have been in the current red tier for a consecutive three weeks.

Ayón presented the school district plans to return with a five phased approach. Currently the school district is in phase one, and are working on phase two where they plan to bring a partial return of small cohorts onto campus. Phase 2 will provide in-person, targeted, specialized support and services at school for students who are in the special education program or who have a specified IEP for in-person learning services.

The phases were presented as:

  • Phase 1: Full distance learning. This phase best ensures physical health and safety
  • Phase 2: A partial return and limited physical contact. This phase is responsive to the most urgent student needs.
  • Phase 3: A hybrid model. This phase re-introduces students to in-person instruction with minimized contact. It also includes a distance learning model for those who opt into it.
  • Phase 4: A modified, in-person model. In this phase, all students and staff would be on campus, with limited contact and health protocols in effect.
  • Phase 5: Full, in-person learning. This phase is a return to a full, in-person instruction model like we had before COVID-19.

School Shutdown Threshold
Ayón shared the number of positive COVID cases it would take to shut down in-person learning by site location. 

“Since we’re such a small school district it’s important to be aware of the number of cases that can actually close a classroom, site and ultimately the district,” Ayón said.

A classroom would revert to Distance Learning for 14 days when one student or staff member of that classroom tests positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, a school site would revert to Distance Learning for 14 days when there are multiple cases in multiple classrooms or cohorts (groups) or five percent of students and staff test positive for COVID-19 within a 14 day-period.

The entire school district would revert to Distance Learning for 14 days when 25 percent or more of its school sites have been physically closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days (which for Winters JUSD would be two schools).

Specifics for Winters schools with 5 percent of positive cases of staff and students within the 14 days as presented:

  • Winters State Preschool Center/Wolfskill Career Readiness Academy: 4 cases.
  • Waggoner Elementary School: 21 cases.
  • Shirley Rominger Intermediate School: 19 cases.
  • Winters Middle School: 17 cases.
  • Winters High School: 25 cases.

Specifics for site closures of the 5 percent positive cases of staff only within the 14 days as presented:

  • Waggoner: 3 cases.
  • Rominger: 2 cases.
  • WMS: 1 case.
  • WHS: 2 cases.
  • All Other (Preschool, CRA, District office): 1 case each.

School schedule revisions
Trustee Carrie Green shared concerns regarding how teachers would be able to teach both in-person and a group of students opted into the distance learning model. She noted that the amount of time on the hybrid model draft did not seem like enough.

Ayón said originally when they were first tasked to create the drafts they didn’t have all of the guidelines that are in place now; One being a face-to-face, live interaction requirement.

“I’m not sure how that is going to look. That is something those sites will have to work out with their leadership teams for their process,” Ayón.

Winters JUSD administrators will work to revise the original hybrid school schedules drafts presented in July using the experience and knowledge they now have after doing distance learning.

“We do know now what we didn’t know in the past that it takes a lot more time to prep for distance learning that we thought it would,” said WHS Principal John Barsotti.

Barsotti also noted that what they are not going to do is try to teach half the students face-to-face and the other half of students at home simultaneously. He said other school districts have attempted it and it has not resulted in an outcome they want to try and replicate.

“We’re going to teach them separately. That’s going to require a lot more planning than what we’re already doing with distance learning,” Barsotti said.

He said the hybrid format doubles the number of sections being taught, and the school district needs to stay aware of that fact.

Family Surveys
Ayón told the Express that a new round of family surveys will be sent out this week (with a goal of Oct. 9).

The goal is to find out from parents if they plan to send their children back to school in the hybrid model or to remain on distance learning. The school district also needs to find out which schools the family has children at in order to plan ahead and make connections for potential COVID-19 positive tests.

“It’s really imperative that we get an answer. We need everyone to answer that survey. We need to see who siblings are, and at what schools,” Ayón said.

They also will be having conversations with staff members to see who plans to remain teaching in the distance learning model, and who plans to return to teach in person.

“There is still quite a bit of work to be done, and it is our responsibility to do this right. This goes back to the health and well being of students and staff,” said Ayón.

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