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Return To School Date Set For Secondary Sites

District officials for the Escalon Unified School District have announced a return to school for secondary students in November.

In a letter sent to parents of secondary students by the district, the plan was outlined, including the reopening date of Monday, Nov. 9.

“We’re excited to have kids back but we are really focusing on being cautious about safety,” noted EUSD Superintendent Ron Costa, “so we are being very strict about sending students or staff home who have any possible symptoms.”

Elementary schools began reopening on a staggered basis, with Farmington and Collegeville first, followed by Van Allen a week later and, this past week, Dent Elementary.

There have been no reported COVID cases at any of the sites since the reopening, said Costa.

With San Joaquin County being in the red tier of the state COVID measuring system for over three weeks now, school districts have been given the go-ahead to begin the process of getting secondary students back into classrooms.

“The Escalon Unified School District has negotiated with our teacher’s union for a reopening date of our secondary schools,” the district letter stated.

The plan includes provisions for in-person instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday being a distance learning day for all students.

As was the case with the elementary sites, students will have the option to remain on distance learning full-time, if they choose to not go back to their campus, whether it is El Portal, Escalon High School or Vista.

“We’ve got about 75 percent of our students that have requested to come back; about one-fourth of our student body will be distance learning full time,” Costa said.

At El Portal, the in-person instruction will begin at 8:30 a.m. and run through 1 p.m.

Escalon High School’s day will begin at 8:20 a.m. and end at 12:50 p.m., with Zero period starting at 7:20 a.m.

For the Panthers and Cougars, distance learning on Wednesday will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and students will attend for the full four hours.

Vista High School will start the day with in-person instruction beginning at 9:35 a.m. and ending at 12:45 p.m.; Wednesday’s distance learning for the Knights will run from 10 a.m. to 1:25 p.m.

As part of the return to school plan, masks will be required for all students and adults, social distancing will be “maintained to the greatest extent possible” and students will be responsible for bringing their Chromebooks to and from school.

Costa explained that, to assist with the social distancing, lockers will not be used, and there will be a ‘block schedule’ in effect at the high school.

Mondays and Thursdays will see students attending their first, second and third period classes, with a longer instructional time allotted; Tuesdays and Fridays will be fourth, fifth and sixth periods. That limits the ‘passing periods’ to just two a day and there will be directional signs to keep students flowing in hallways in the same direction, as opposed to coming face to face as they pass in the halls.

Also, said officials, as part of the school lunch program – with all students currently able to take part, regardless of income eligibility – everyone will be able to get a school lunch and a breakfast for the next morning when they leave campus at the end of the school day.

Students riding buses to and from school will be required to wear masks while on the bus and also will have to sanitize their hands as they board the bus. Parents will be required to screen their children for COVID-19 symptoms prior to each school day; information on how to do that is included in the student self-screener in the district’s reopening plan available on the district’s website,

The secondary school site plan for bringing students and staff back to campuses is the same one used for the elementary schools.

“The District recognizes how important it is for kids to be in school receiving face-to-face instruction, but we are also mindful of our students and staff safety,” the letter to parents stressed. “We are your partner in educating your children while keeping them safe.”

There will be no ‘dressing out’ for PE classes and the classes will be outside, to allow for distancing.

The goal, Costa said, is to get students back on campus safely. They will have no school on Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day; then there is a weeklong break from Nov. 23 to 27 for Thanksgiving. That will be followed by a couple more weeks of instruction, then the two-week Christmas-New Year break.

“Depending on how this goes, the school board will be looking at possibly increasing school time or getting back to a regular schedule after we come back,” Costa said of returning to campuses in January, 2021 after the holidays. “It all depends on how things are going.”