DUSD superintendent addresses in-person learning holds virtual town hall

Romel Madayag, a geometry teacher at Douglas High School, conducts his virtual teaching during a recent class. 

DOUGLAS — Douglas Unified School District Superintendent Ana Samaniego held a virtual town hall in both English and Spanish Feb. 19, addressing the resumption of in-person learning which is scheduled to begin March 15.

The English town hall was attended by more than 100 people and lasted a little longer than an hour. The event was interactive. People were able to ask questions or address any concerns they may have in regards to the proposed plan.

The superintendent announced there is a mandatory quarter-four learning option online survey DUSD parents and students are asked to complete by 3 p.m. Feb.24. The link to the survey is https://cutt.ly/Bk460k8. She also encouraged parents to fill out the DUSD #27 Return to School “In-Person” Operational Safety Plan, which is available online in English and Spanish.

Samaniego began the town hall by providing a brief overview of what in-person models for all levels are going to be.

“I understand there are a lot of questions and uncertainty,” she said. “They are probably the same ones our staff have about reopening schools. The online model does not give any voice or any choice to those families, parents and students that need to go in person. By staying online we close the door to those opportunities for those children. By offering a hybrid model it still gives parents the choice to stay online or attend school. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s not a perfect solution but both students have an equal opportunity.”

Masks will be required at all schools for both students and staff. Temperature checks will be taken on staff but not on the students. Gators and bandanas will not be permitted.

Students who have a device checked out by DUSD will be asked to bring that with them each day. Those students who have a personal device are asked to bring it and will be able to access the school’s Wi-Fi.

“We are strongly discouraging the use of a telephone as a device for learning,” the superintendent said.

Samaniego said that Douglas High School, which is the 9-12 model, will be following the A and B and A.M. and P.M. model.

“Any Douglas High School student who chooses to go to in-person learning will go for direct instruction based on if they are an A day or B day A.M. or P.M. student,” she said. “A day students will attend Monday and Thursday and then have three days of virtual instruction being Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Each student will still get the five days of instruction no matter what. The online students that choose to remain online will join virtually, simultaneously, at the very same time the in-person students are attending. Attendance is mandatory five days a week.

A.M. times will be 8 to 10:55 a.m. while the P.M. session will run from 12:15 to 3:10 p.m.

“As the morning students enter they will receive breakfast and go straight to their class where they will eat their breakfast,” DHS principal Randy Walker added. “As the morning students finish and are exiting the school they will get their lunch as they exit. When the afternoon students arrive they will get their lunch and go directly to their classroom.”

Samaniego noted teachers will be in the classroom with their students and could have five in-person students and 15 virtual they will be teaching at the same time.

“How that teacher is going to teach at the high school will vary,” she said. “Each teacher has a different teaching style and teaches a different subject.”

A parent asked if their child plays sports, is it mandatory for them to attend in-person school. Samaniego said it wasn’t.

“All parents and students have an option,” Samaniego said. “If your child remains online they’re still a DUSD student. They will be able to participate in any extracurricular activities.”

Graduation was brought up. Walker said it is his hope DHS can have a walk-through graduation this year but those details still need to be worked out and no official decision has been made.

“We’re coming up with different scenarios,” he said. “If it is determined that we’re not able to have a normal graduation then we’ll start announcing what graduation may look like this year.”

Summer school was also addressed for those students that may be behind.

“Our summer school is normally 19 days,” Samaniego said. “I’m pushing for an extended summer school this year providing we have teachers that are willing to teach.”

The pre-kindergarten and through eighth grade model calls for four days of in-person learning with Wednesday being a virtual teaching day.

“Based on research we’ve done we felt this was the appropriate model for us,” Samaniego said. “Students who choose to go in-person will go to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8 to 2:30 for elementary and 8 to 3 for the middle schools,” she said. “Middle school will have their learning space open on Wednesday only because that’s the only day it’s really needed. Those students who chose to remain online 100 percent of the time will join the classes simultaneously while the teacher is teaching in-person, the same way as high school, elementary and middle school.”

Students at Paul Huber and Ray Borane middle schools will be grouped into cohorts.

“The kids will move from one classroom to the next as a group as much as possible with the exception of just a few students,” said Deborah Herrera, principal at PHMS.

Class sizes at the middle schools will vary from eight to 12 students while pre-K to elementary will be 10-11 students.

“We’ve been planning and preparing for this for a long time,” said Melissa Rodriguez, principal at RBMS. “This all started back last summer. We were always anticipating students would return to school. With that in mind we’ve already had our classrooms set to receive kids. We have desks six feet apart.

“At Ray Borane, doing that, we were able to fit 14-16 desks per classroom. Every school is different because class sizes vary at different sites. Filling out the survey will give us a better idea of how many students to be expecting.”

Samaniego closed the town hall saying all her educators are “troopers” doing the best they can with what they have.

“We believe in our teachers,” she said. “We believe that they will get through this and will be successful with your support as parents and with the support of our administrators.”