MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Schools across the Central Coast are mulling over plans for what the upcoming school year is going to be like. For many districts, the question is–do we continue distance learning or bring kids back in the classroom?
Many districts are still working on their plans, consulting parents and discussing the options at board meetings.
After speaking with local education leaders, one thing is clear: school will not be completely back to normal this year. It will likely end up being a combination of distance learning and limited in-person classes. But parents will have the ultimate say in whether to send their kids to school or not.
Some parents tell us they want kids back in the classroom because they're falling behind. Others said they can't afford to stay home with them and have to work.
On the other hand, some parents have concerns over students getting exposed to the virus or bringing the virus home to family members with existing health conditions, especially with cases on the rise.
Many said they're still weighing health and safety concerns with educational concerns.
The Salinas City Elementary School District is letting parents decide between two options: 100 percent distance learning or a hybrid model, which would be two consecutive days inside the classroom and three days of distance learning.
When students come to school on August 10, the superintendent, Dr. Rebeca Andrade, said there will be temperature checks, physical distancing and frequent sanitation.
The district says classes will be limited to no more than 15 students and there will be more frequent sanitizing. The school day will have limited hours with the day likely starting between 8-9 a.m. and ending at 12:30-1:30 p.m. and after school care will be available.
But a mask requirement is still being discussed.
“In looking at our Monterey County health guidelines, the guidelines don’t state that anyone below 12-years-old have to wear masks, so the piece we are being mindful of is the distance,” Andrade said.
If adequate social distancing can’t be maintained, then they may require masks.
The superintendent says some things are still being negotiated and will be finalized by next week. The district is having a virtual meeting with parents to notify them of the plans Monday night from 5-6 p.m. in Spanish and 6-7 p.m. in English.
Monterey County has the requirement for children older than 12, because they acknowledge wearing a mask can be tough for many kids, but they do strongly encourage face coverings in schools because of how close people are together.
The Salinas City Elementary School District is still weighing their options and said that their plans for reopening can change depending on guidelines from the health department.
A potential mask requirement comes as a concern to parents of younger children and kids with asthma.
“I don’t know if they will have face coverings all day, because they won’t be able to handle wearing it all day, they are young kids. I think it’s going to be really complicated,” said Salinas parent Lucia Mallanes whose son is in elementary school.
Soledad parents and guardians also echoed these concerns.
“Students outside of high school, I cannot see that these kids are going to be able to maintain a 6 foot distance and how that health protocol is going to be able to maintain, especially with kids who are K-5.” said Andria Jones whose grandson would be in kindergarten within the Soledad Unified School District this year.
Because of these health and safety concerns, she said “I won’t send him brick and mortar. I will be making the choice to do virtual learning for him."
In a letter being sent to parents this week, Soledad Unified School District's superintendent will give them three options for the 2020-2021 school year including in-person instruction, online learning or a combination of the two. They plan to have parents take a survey to choose the best option for their child. They will use the survey to decide how they'll move forward with next year.
The district told KION, at this time, they foresee distance learning or hybrid learning, which is a combination of limited in-person and online classes, as the most feasible options.
They won’t transition to full time in person classes until it’s deemed safe.
Over in Santa Cruz County, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District is also figuring out their plans for the upcoming year. They’re having a virtual meeting tonight to discuss reopening with parents.