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Central Coast Comeback: Schools prepare for 2020-2021 academic year

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Schools on the Central Coast have been dark since mid-March. For the first time ever, classes transitioned to a completely online platform, and it was anything but easy.

"We want to make sure that they're able to access their teacher," said Greenfield Union School District Superintendent, Zandra Galvan in April.

Thousands of Monterey County households lacked wifi, so districts were forced to come up with solutions. All the while, staff set about the task to feed students outside of school and made time to connect with students.

California education now faces more challenges than ever. "How do we keep our students, staff and families safe while working to provide the best quality education that we can?," said California Superintendent of Schools, Tony Thurmond.

The California Department of Education is still formulating specifics about how districts can move forward in the 2020-2021 academic year. What that looks like may be different for every school. "There's no one that has a playbook to how you should reopen schools in the middle of pandemic," said Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Deneen Guss.

The Monterey County Office of Education recently held their first meeting to plan for the Fall. Guss said priority lies with following rules set by the Monterey County Health Department.

"Some schools may have the ability to bring more students back beacuse they have a larger facility and can implement social distancing requirements. Other schools may need to have a hybrid model where students attend on one day and other students attend on another day," said Guss.

The Centers for Disease Control has released guidelines for schools to consider. Health officials said schools that choose to move forward with online-only learning will present the lowest risk for spreading the virus. Schools that hold in-person and online classes will be exposed to more risk. Schools that decide to hold full-sizedin-person classes will subject students and staff to the highest risk for the virus.

"In recent times we've done a lot more with classrooms to provide kids with opportunities to work in collaborative groups. One of the skill sets they learn is working with each other. That kind of setting is going to change," said Salinas Union High School District Superintendent, Dan Burns.

Burns said a 100-plus person committee is planning for next year.

The CDC recommends that reopening schools require masks for children over the age of 2, increase education on hand hygiene, acquire an abundance of sanitation supplies and enforce six feet of distance between every student and staff member.

"In a district like ours, if you had to have 5 masks a day for 16,000 kids, over the course of 180 days, you're talking about millions of masks," said Burns.

A possible 10% budget cut to schools across California is looming over administrators like Burns. Burns is looking ahead to plan for the next year and said new resources to accommodate the pandemic are going to cost money.

"If we're going to cut 10% out of a budget, where in a district like ours is $14 million, you can't expect us to come up with $2 to $3 million more for us to provide the necessities for our kids to come to school," said Burns.

Burns plans for the district to make a decision on the upcoming year by the end of June.

Central Coast Comeback / Coronavirus / Education / Health / Monterey County / News / San Benito County / Santa Cruz County

Megan Meier

Megan Meier is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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