COOLIDGE — Beginning in the fall, the Coolidge Unified School District will offer three educational alternatives for enrolled students during the 2020-21 school year.
Students attending CUSD schools will have the option to attend school in person, following social distancing and health guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; to participate in an in-person and virtual hybrid educational model, where students would attend school two days a week and learn remotely the remainder of the week; or to enroll in an online-only option, through a virtual academy that would be part of CUSD.
Like many other districts, CUSD will offer the multiple educational models for students as it prepares to reopen in the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Charie Wallace informed members of the Governing Board during the virtual school board meeting last Wednesday that students who select enrollment in the virtual academy will still have the ability to participate in CUSD athletics and certain extracurricular activities if they choose.
Students wanting to enroll in certain electives, she said, can take four classes online and a fifth class — such as band or agriculture — in person. Those seeking to participate in athletics will be allowed to take five classes online and still partake in sports like football or volleyball in person.
The district anticipates that it will roll out registration, with all three options available for students and parents to chose from, near the end of June.
However, Wallace cautioned that even for students who elect to continue their education through the traditional model, things will be far from “normal.”
“We’re not going to have volunteers, we’re not going to be able to have visitors,” she said. “It’s going to be a new normal.”
Though the district will revamp how it operates busing, drop-offs, recess and other elements to adhere to health and wellness mandates, Wallace noted that CUSD hopes to maintain parts of the in-person educational experience like meals in the cafeteria and electives.
Board members were also provided with an update on the procedures the school district would follow in event of another mandated school closure, with Wallace noting that CUSD would move to remote learning as it did this past year.
But remote learning in the case of a school closure in the upcoming school year would be significantly improved, she said.
The decision to offer the different learning options comes on the heels of surveys that were sent out to parents and staff regarding the reopening of district campuses after months of school closures.
Thus far, the parent survey has collected over 760 responses across all CUSD school, which accounts for about 36% of the district’s total enrollment.
In the survey, parents were asked to select an ideal learning model for their child in the upcoming school year. They were presented with the three learning options the district has since decided to adopt.
According to Director of Human Resources Dawn Dee Hodge, 43% of parents said they were interested in sending their children back to school full-time. Another 34% indicated that they preferred the combined online and in-person program, while 23% selected the online-only model as their primary preference.
“I’ve definitely heard from quite a few parents who really love that we’re doing this and offering this to them,” Board President Mikey Flores II said. “Some families are comfortable with (students) coming full time, some are not. So what we’re doing is basically meeting the families where they are comfortable at during this pandemic.”
Parents were also surveyed on what protocols they wanted the district to implement upon reopening. Hodge noted that 60% of respondents wanted both teachers and students to wear masks while on campus and 7% said they wanted only CUSD staff members to wear masks.
By contrast, 33% of respondents specified that they did not want students or teachers to wear masks.
When it came to daily temperature checks, however, the results were dramatically different. 83% of survey respondents indicated that they were in favor of both CUSD staff and students having their temperature checked at the beginning of each day. Another 16% said that they preferred that no temperature checks be conducted.
The survey also asked parents to consider whether or not the district should adopt a later start day for students, which would allow CUSD staff additional time for training.
The results were split 50%-50%, Hodge said.
Though the Governing Board has already approved a school calendar that lists the first day of school as July 27, the district may move all of its Professional Development days — typically done on Fridays — to the beginning of the year.
Front-loading professional development, Wallace said, provides all teachers with an opportunity to become well versed in the technology and applications the district uses for remote learning, as well as social distancing guidelines, at the beginning of the year.
If the school district decides to move its training to beginning of the year, students would not begin school until Aug. 10.
But though Wallace noted that district administration is “leaning toward” the idea, the change would have to brought before the governing board at a later date for approval.
CUSD teachers were also asked to participate in a survey on their preferences as schools prepare to reopen in the fall.
Just over 100 teachers responded to the survey, Hodge said. Of that figure, 40% said they wanted to return to school sites full-time in the fall, while 28% indicated they preferred a modified, or hybrid, program.
But 23% of the teachers — the same percentage identified through the parent survey — said they preferred to teach in a fully virtual program.
When asked about masks, 49% of the surveyed teachers wanted to see both students and staff wearing masks on campus.
Comparable to the percentage of parents, 87% of teachers indicated that they would prefer temperature checks to be conducted on both staff and students daily. In addition, the vast majority of survey respondents, 70%, said they would support a delayed start for students and professional development days at the beginning of the school year for staff.