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Officials: Plans in Flux But Area Schools Will Restart on Aug. 13

MOUNTAIN AREA — Superintendents of two area school districts both confirmed on Thursday that their schools are on track to open for the 2020-21 school year on August 13. “Schools will reopen one way or another,” said Bass Lake Joint Elementary School District Superintendent Randy Seals.

Unfortunately, because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, there are still major questions about what the formal reopening will look like — and Seals said Thursday district officials  “may not be able to make a final decision until the night of August 12.”

Chawanakee School District Superintendent Darren Sylvia shares a similar message on that district’s website as the now months-long pandemic continues to surge.

Sylvia, Seals and Yosemite Unified Superintendent Glen Billington are all in regular, weekly communication with county health department officials. 

“Right now, we have three different contingency plans,” Billington said Thursday. “No.1, students will come back to school full-time. No. 2, we will adopt a ‘hybrid’ model combining both classroom and distance learning. Or No. 3, we will continue with full distance learning, which is not our choice.”

“As of right now, we are still working on all three of those plans,” Billington added.

Seals confirmed that was the case with his district as well and also said: “Unfortunately, reopening of schools has suddenly become very political. We’re even getting pressure from the president now.”

Both superintendents said that regardless of what plan is put in place on August 13, parents will have the right to make the final decision as to whether their children return to the classroom or opt for a distance learning plan offered by the districts.

“We’ve got some great independent study programs,” Billington said.

Seals said classrooms are being reconfigured as best as possible to allow for social distancing but the effort to put plexiglass dividers between desks has been stymied because of the shortage of plexiglass.

If in-person classes are allowed to resume next month, Seals added: “Can you imagine what it will be like in a kindergarten or first grade classroom with teachers trying to enforce social distancing and asking students to keep their masks on?” 

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