‘Nothing like we’ve seen before’: Fall school session will likely see major changes, but more questions than answers remain
When schools began to close, and distance learning took effect, many in the school system believed that the measure would be temporary, and that in a few weeks’ time, everything would go back to normal.
It has quickly become apparent, said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay, that won’t be the case, and that not only will the current school year be modified, but also the subsequent one.
While Nevada County school administrators are still trying to determine how to hold graduations and end-of-year celebrations, they are also beginning to look to the fall to decide how the beginning of the school year will operate logistically.
Scott Lay said he’s been regularly meeting with local directors and superintendents, as well as superintendents from across the state, to determine how to conduct socially distant recesses and lunch breaks at schools, how to run school buses with one child per seat, how to operate sports activities and school organizations and how to institute staggered scheduling to allow fewer students on campus.
“We’ve seen a lot of plans,” said Lay. “Everything is up in the air right now.”
While still unknown, the ultimate decisions will be made following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s future instructions, as well as guidelines set by the state public health department.
Nevada Joint Union High School Superintendent Brett McFadden supported Lay’s claims, announcing at Wednesday’s district board meeting that things will look different this fall and likely thereafter.
“It will be nothing like we’ve seen before,” he said. “A set of very steep and complicated challenges (await).”
The thorny issue of establishing smaller class sizes and cutting staff is that the two variables are incompatible, said Lay — especially as schools were already having to consider budget cuts to prevent a silent recession.
One opportunity, the superintendent suggested, is for students and school staff to be prioritized for testing to allow them to return to a more normal state without having them issue budget cuts.
Despite these unprecedented challenges, and the struggle to shift to distance learning, both staff members and administrators at Wednesday’s district board meeting expressed appreciation for those they work with, as well as students in the district.
“In the end, I’ve never been more proud to be an educator, and to represent the amazing staff members that we represent,” said Nevada Union High School teacher and the district’s teacher union representative Jessica Lee.
McFadden and several board members agreed.
“I want you all to know that we have compassion and we care about every single person and these students,” said district board president Jamie Reeves on Wednesday.
Reeves was quick to note that distance learning is not normal. An online course, she said, typically takes six to nine months to prepare. By contrast, the district issued distance learning within about a week’s time.
“Our staff have performed a heroic feat,” said the board president. “This is emergency remote learning that everyone’s doing.”
Mostly, though, Reeves has noticed an uptick in appreciation from parents as they recognize the difficulties of teaching. The board president said she hopes residents remember how important teachers and schools are when the next vote on a school bond measure occurs.
Measure J — a bond measure that would have gone toward facility renovations at Ready Springs Elementary and Williams Ranch Elementary — failed in the March election.
Reeves wants parents to be constantly reminded of a school’s importance — “not just from a teacher’s perspective, but from a society’s perspective.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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