A few weeks in to the new school year, distance learning seems to be settling in to a successful pattern for those in the Escalon Unified School District.
EUSD Superintendent Ron Costa said the most recent enrollment figures show student numbers at 2,988 while last year, at the beginning of September, the student numbers were 3,028. Gauging attendance in these COVID-19 days is a bit trickier, though Costa said the majority of classes are seeing high attendance levels.
He also said the drop in student numbers – down by 40 overall from year to year – looks like it can be attributed primarily to the kindergarten programs across the district.
“We were at 301 students last year in kindergarten, this year we are at 244,” the superintendent explained. “I think right now there’s a lot of kindergarten (eligible) students just staying home.”
Parents may be choosing to hold their child back a year in hopes of being able to start them in a traditional classroom setting at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
Meanwhile, Costa said learning is occurring – the same as if students were on campus as opposed to online.
“The majority of our teachers are teaching from campus,” he explained, noting that teachers are in their classrooms connecting with students and adjustments are being made as they go to enhance the student learning experience.
Also, the dual immersion program at Collegeville is going extremely well, he reported, with students getting instruction in both Spanish and English at the kindergarten, first and second grade levels.
Now that there has been a color coded system put in place at the state level to gauge where counties are at in terms of the pandemic, Costa said officials remain hopeful that eventually, all students can return to campuses this school year.
“We’re hearing a lot of positives,” he said of numbers trending in the right direction for San Joaquin and surrounding counties. Yet, stringent guidelines remain and multiple benchmarks must be met. “There’s always room for improvement.”
As soon as it is allowed, he said the school district can apply for a waiver that would make it possible for kindergarten through fifth grade students to return to campuses; middle and high school students would likely have to wait longer. But even applying for the waiver isn’t something Escalon can decide on its own.
“It’s only when our county allows it,” Costa said.
Until then, the distance learning will continue, the ‘new normal’ for students, staff and administrators.