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Some Clovis Unified Kids Back in School Within Weeks. Others Not Until January, District Says.



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Clovis Unified School District students will return to schools on a phased-in basis, with some returning as early as Nov. 3 and others not until Jan. 19, according to the administration’s recommendation.

The plan was presented Wednesday night to Clovis Unified board members, who also learned that schools may be able to choose from several hybrid plans, including morning/afternoon and alternating day schedules. District officials emphasized that school sites will judge the best plan based on input from their local community of school staff and parents.

The addition of the alternating day hybrid schedule option was a “huge announcement,” said trustee Steven Fogg, noting that the board had previously been told that elementary school teachers were advocating morning/afternoon scheduling so that teachers could see their students each day.

How quickly students return to their classrooms will depend in part on whether there are enough teachers who are comfortable returning to in-person instruction. District administrators presented surveys that showed concerns about potential health impacts cited by teachers and parents who expressed reluctance to resume in-person instruction.

“While we might have a school where 70% of the students want to come back on Nov. 3, if we only have 10% of the teachers at that school able to come back at that date, that presents a quandary for us,” superintendent Eimear O’Farrell said.

Waiver for Elementary Schools

Under the state’s reopening plan, elementary schools in counties with higher rates of coronavirus infection like Fresno could seek a waiver to the school closure mandate. That allowed counties still in Tier 1, color-coded purple, to reopen schools to younger students. Clovis received its waiver earlier this month.

Fresno County learned this week that it has remained in Tier 2, color-coded red, for two weeks straight, which under the state reopening plan will allow districts to reopen secondary schools.

If the county returns to the purple tier, middle and high schools would have to wait for the county to regain the red tier.

Clovis Unified now plans to resume in-person instruction at middle and high schools at the start of the next semester in January.

Surveys will go out to parents on Friday. Some board members questioned whether parents would be asked to make a commitment of in-person versus continuing distance learning for their children. The district also plans to survey secondary school staffers.

Simultaneous Teaching An Option?

Meanwhile, some teachers in the Clovis West area are piloting simultaneous teaching of students in the classroom and online, because they want to maintain their connections with all their students once in-person instruction resumes across the district, said Corrine Folmer, associate superintendent for school leadership.

The concept was teacher-driven, Folmer said, noting “there have been bumps.”

Hybrid schedules will likely remain in effect for some time, because each of the four color-guided tiers in the state’s coronavirus reopening plan requires students and staff to stay 6 feet apart.

Fogg acknowledged that some parents will be disappointed if their students have to delay their return to school as officials work out scheduling. But, he said, Clovis is ahead of other districts in Fresno that have either not set a return date yet or have settled on the start of the new semester.

“Other schools districts that are our neighbors are not going back until January,” he said. “We are pioneering in our community of our teachers and students coming back with phased-in. We need to do it right.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email