William S. Hart Union High School District officials informed parents that due to logistical concerns heading into finals week, the cohort groups of students who have been receiving in-person instruction on district sites this past semester will be completing their final few days of the semester from home.
The groups of students that had returned were given special permission from the county earlier this fall, and generally have special needs in terms of their education. Blended learning with general education students has not yet been given the go-ahead to return to campus.
Superintendent Mike Kuhlman on Tuesday said the district was monitoring the rise of COVID-19 transmission in the community and running into issues with some of those on campus having to either quarantine due to possible exposure, experiencing symptoms, and/or having tested positive.
“So we thought that we were going to take a pause … and since it’s finals week, it would be less disruptive to families,” said Kuhlman. “For most kids, instruction is already over.”
These small groups of students have been returning to campus since Oct. 12 in small cohorts, or a maximum group size of 12, for targeted instruction and services. Participation had been optional, with some students opting to stay home, and those going on campuses had to follow daily health screenings, wear masks, and maintain social distance, district officials said.
Kuhlman added that while the campuses are not necessarily “closing,” site staff and teachers have been given the option on whether they wish to continue to come to campus for the remainder of the semester (which ends Thursday), or stay at home to complete their work there.
“We’re not closing school, and we’re not declaring the schools are inherently unsafe,” said Kuhlman. “Teachers and other staff still have the ability to come on campus, but we’re giving them greater flexibility for these last three days for staff to work at home if their job duties permit.”
Kuhlman added that this decision to have the cohort groups stay home for finals will not affect their return in January for the start of this next semester.
“Our intent is once we start in January that we’re starting with small cohorts,” said Kuhlman. “There’s absolutely no discussion of us ending that.”
Kuhlman said he expects to make a presentation to the district’s governing board members during their Wednesday night meeting concerning the timeline for the return of general education to school campuses using a blended learning model.
“The minute we’re to (implement blended learning), my vote will be to open up the doors and say, ‘Go for it,’” said board President Linda Storli on Tuesday. “But it has to be when it’s safe.”
The district’s COVID-19 dashboard notes that 17 staff and six students have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days across all district sites.