Local school boards to vote on plans for new school year

Doug Keeler
Midway Driller Editor @midwaydriller
ages like this one for Taft Union High School were developed by TUHS graphic communications teacher Mark Fitzsimmons

Students around the Westside may be attending school two days a week with stringent safety measures with distance learning augmenting their education. 

A subcommittee formed last month as part of a larger committee is recommending students attend school in a split schedule, with each group getting two days of in-person classes each week. 

Its not an ideal solution, the committee said, but it’s the best solution it can come up with at this point.

Under the proposal, students at each school would be divided into "cohort A" and "cohort B"

The first group would attend classes on Monday and Thursday, the second on Tuesday and Friday.

Schools would be closed on Wednesday for a deep cleaning.

"None of us are very excited with the plan that we had to choose," said Taft Union High School Principal Mary Alice Finn, one of the co-chairs of the instruction committee that was tasked with determining the best approach to teaching the students.

Finn said the committee's recommendation was based on input from teachers and parents that feels face-to-face student-teacher contact on multiple days is the best alternative.

"Otherwise they feels the kids may get off track by the time they see them again.”

Wednesday, when the campus is closed, will be used for teacher prep and online teacher-student contact to support students.

Bringing kids back on campuses is going to take some special arrangements.

For Taft High, that will mean split lunch periods a closed campus and screening of all students that come on campus.

The TUHSD Board will vote on the recommendation at a special meeting Thursday at 5 p.m.

Taft City School District considering a similar plan, Supt. Julie Graves said, and that will be discussed at a July 22 board meeting.

Online only instruction has been a challenge. TUHS teachers have been getting help from Taft College faculty who have been teaching online courses for several years.

But the new hybrid schedule with teaching two groups of students will create more work for teachers.

"There is a more of a workload on all of us," Finn acknowledged. This is the best for the kids and that at the end of the day that is who we are working for. It's not perfect but this is the model our committee thinks is best."

Finn’s presentation was part of a three-hour online meeting that includes several subcommittees and more than 100 administrators, teachers, staff and parents.

The subcommittees are looking at a variety of issues surrounding education in the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are a lot of challenges to overcome. 

All students, teachers and staff are going to have to be screened before entering a campus, all students and staff will wear masks “if possible". 

The only exception is bus driver, who aren't allowed to wear anything on their face while driving.

Physical education is going to be a challenge, TCSD school nurse Kathy Fitzsimmons said.

What type of PE classes will be held will be decided at each school site, but dressing out for the class will be a challenge.

"Its hard to imagine physical distancing in a locker room she said.”

Cleaning schools is going to be a big challenge for the TCSD.

MOT Director Tommy Aguilera said the District has one custodian assigned to each school.

"We need help," he said.