Nevada Joint Union High School District responds to parent, staff concerns on hybrid instruction
After announcing this week the district would shift to a hybrid instructional model beginning Oct. 12, Nevada Joint Union High School District administrators have responded to some immediate feedback on the decision.
In a presentation at a special Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Assistant Superintendent Dan Frisella shared details regarding the planned transition to hybrid instruction, addressing concerns from district parents and staff.
“If the ultimate goal is to get students back in school, this is a step in that direction,” said Frisella.
He described the major precautions against COVID-19 transmission to be implemented — required mask-wearing on campus, increased sanitization, and symptom-checks — as essentially the same as those in use at four K-8 districts in the county which are currently operating in a hybrid model. The precautions are strictly based on both local and state public health guidelines.
He said some have expressed concern that students and their families will not adhere strictly enough to symptom checks and the related guidance to stay home if experiencing any symptom associated with COVID-19.
“We have those pieces in place, they’ve been implemented at the K-8 schools, they’ve been implemented at our neighboring districts, so we feel comfortable moving forward with symptom checks,” said Frisella.
He said the district has received questions about how staff will be expected to monitor students’ usage of masks as required.
“What we’re asking of our staff is to enforce it as a minor discipline issue,” said Frisella. He explained staff would request the student wear their mask, and if the student did not comply, call for campus security and refer the student to administration.
Regarding student transportation, Frisella said, “We will run transportation on all of our regular routes, and they should be able to operate at 50% capacity.”
The district announced this week that families who did not wish to send their student back onto campus in the hybrid model could keep the student in full distance learning. Frisella said that students who begin hybrid instruction Oct. 12 could also return to distance learning should they or their families not feel comfortable after trying it, but for staff planning purposes, students who opt for distance learning would not be able to switch to hybrid instruction this semester.
The district plans to adopt a cohort-based hybrid format as presented — and postponed at the time — in July. The cohorts will be split by last name alphabetically, roughly split into students with A-K last names attending in-person instruction Mondays and Tuesdays while L-Z last names attend on Thursdays and Fridays.
On-campus instruction would be in a minimum day schedule, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and all students would received distance learning instruction in the afternoons and on Wednesdays.
Following a survey sent to district families Wednesday, Frisella said by Thursday the district had received almost 800 responses. He said about 15% of responding families had expressed interest in remaining in full distance learning, and over 50% of families said they were open to switching their student from their assigned cohort if necessary.
“If we have a particular class where it’s not balanced by an A through K (alphabetical) split, then it looks like we have plenty of families willing to adjust,” he said.
Trina Weitzel, parent of a student enrolled in special education at Nevada Union High School, addressed administrators at the meeting, expressing that it had not been made clear to special education parents at that point when their students would be returning to campus.
Janet Horowitz, director of special education and pupil services, said a special education reopening committee met Thursday. She said it had hoped to bring special education programs back onto campus by Oct. 1, but that this had been delayed by cohort and transportation issues.
Horowitz said they are now aiming for an Oct. 5 return, pending confirmation with teaching staff — at the latest, she said, they would be returning Oct. 12 alongside the rest of the student body.
Weitzel asked if special education students, some of whom have difficulties wearing a face covering, would face repercussions including a call to campus security for not doing so.
Horowitz responded that “mask policy within those programs would not follow the same strategies,” saying that students facing difficulty wearing masks would “work with a school psychologist to work on behavioral strategies to improve their ability to wear a mask during the school day.”
District special education families were surveyed by email this week on whether their student would be participating in the shift into hybrid instruction and whether the student could tolerate wearing a mask while on campus.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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