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Students Seeing Value Of In-Person Instruction

Bracing for what has been termed the ‘third wave’ of coronavirus cases, officials with the Escalon Unified School District remain hopeful that in-person learning will continue without a disruption.

Following the New Year observance – where people may have gathered with those outside the home – San Joaquin County health officials warned schools to be on alert for a wave of cases or those presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year have each provided a ‘wave’ coming out of 2020 and into 2021, said officials.

“We could see a significantly higher one than the wave we had during the summer,” said Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa.

As of last report, on Jan. 8, Costa said there were 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases spread throughout the school district, taking both student and staff numbers into account.

Those cases also mean quarantine for other family members as well, impacting school attendance. However, said Costa, the impact hasn’t been dramatic and, for the most part, students remain in school.

“At all our schools, the number of kids wanting and receiving in person instruction continues to grow,” Costa added.

Of concern if the ‘third wave’ does bring a significant number of positive COVID tests is being able to cover for teachers who might be affected.

“If it happens it will be the most difficult to work through the staffing, if we lose a number of teachers’ ability to come to work due to symptoms of positivity or exposure, it will be hard,” admitted Costa.

Continued emphasis on health and safety protocols, social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitizing and more has, the superintendent believes, kept the students and staff in a relatively safe environment while on campus.

“Right now, I meet with our nurses every day, we are not seeing exposures happening at school,” Costa said.

But exposure does happen and then the quarantine period goes into effect – latest recommendations from the county health office are that individuals showing symptoms must quarantine for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. For those that were exposed to COVID, they must quarantine for 10 days from their last exposure.

“We require masks for everybody on campus, even kindergarten and TK students,” Costa said, adding that from his office adjacent to the high school campus, he can see students there changing classes wearing their masks and maintaining social distance.

“Discipline issues at our schools are virtually non-existent,” the superintendent said. “They (students) are valuing school, I believe, to a much greater extent … I think we all are. Overall, the kids are very positive, learning is happening and I truly believe our staff is doing what is best for kids. I know that we are not back to normal, kids are not getting the full experience but we are doing the best we can to at least get them some instruction.”

He said the Class of 2020 didn’t get the chance to truly celebrate their accomplishments and he doesn’t want to see the same thing happen again, hoping the Class of 2021 gets to walk the traditional graduation route.

“This is their 13th year in school, they worked for this,” he said.

And even though there isn’t the opportunity right now for many of the extracurricular activities and classrooms and instruction looks much different than a year ago, Costa said there is some progress.

“We have to look on the positive side too, at least they are getting the opportunity to come to school and interact with others,” he said.