Whitewater Unified School District discusses re-opening possibilities

The Whitewater Unified School District met on Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. virtually on Zoom to discuss the possible options for schools re-opening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Weeks prior to the meeting, the district sent a survey to parents on their opinions about sending their children to school face to face full time, virtually full time, or a hybrid combination of these two options. 51.7% of parents prefer their kids to go back to regular face to face, 20.2% wish to keep their kids at home learning virtually, and 28.1% were in favor of a hybrid option. It was noted that after the survey was completed, many parents reached out in an attempt to change their answers. Specifics on what their answers were and how they wanted to change them were not given, and answers were unable to be changed.

Many parents attended the meeting virtually, and spoke passionately in favor of sending their kids to school full time. However, it was noted that since the initial survey, positive COVID-19 cases have continued to rise, which makes full time face to face learning potentially dangerous. It was for this reason that the School District Administrator, Caroline Pate-Hefty, voiced a recommendation to primarily implement virtual learning for the first four weeks of the school year with some face to face interaction, especially for students with disabilities and students who are learning English as their second language. The board discussed that if students are sent back to school full time in the fall, then parents need to be prepared for last minute school closures.

Social distancing measures will be put in place if students are sent back to school in the fall. Students will be required to wear masks while in the building, and also while riding the bus. But, in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, parents will be strongly encouraged to drive their children to school if possible. If students have to learn virtually from home, every 4K-12 student will have a Chromebook device, and students whose families don’t have access to wi-fi will be given a hotspot.

A four week timeline was presented that discussed how school safety will be monitored in the first four weeks while students are virtually learning with little face to face contact. The timeline suggested that once school begins, data would be reported every Friday regarding staff and student positive COVID-19 cases, primary staff and student contacts, and if school closures may be necessary. Upon Friday, September 28, the school board would consider a new model of learning for October. The board decided that this four week timeline be shortened to a two week timeline.

The school board will be meeting again on Wednesday, July 29 in a closed session to make final decisions regarding schools opening this fall.

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