Seniors to return to Denair High; elementary students to DECA

A few dozen Denair High School seniors will return to campus full time Monday for the first time in nearly a year, an important step in completing their high school careers by being able to interact in small groups with their teachers and friends.

Denair Elementary Charter Academy, meanwhile, expects as many as 327 of its 550 kindergarten through fifth-graders to be on campus for two days beginning next week. Some will come to school Monday and Tuesday; others on Thursday and Friday. All will remain on distance learning the other three days. In-person classes will run from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

At Denair Middle School, more sixth-graders will be added next week to the on-campus “learning cohorts” that have been in place since November to help students needing academic and emotional support. The goal is to allow additional seventh- and eighth-graders to return by mid-March.

“Parents and community members may not realize the amount of planning and work that went into expanding in-person learning,” said Superintendent Terry Metzger. “Principals, office staff and teachers have done a great job figuring out the logistics, and our maintenance and operations crews have been working hard to get the schools ready for students. Everyone is excited to have more students back on campus.”

The moves come as Denair Unified – like other school districts in California and the nation – tries to balance the desire for face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic with the need to keep staff and students safe.

There will be layers of safety precautions in place on all of Denair’s campuses. All students, teachers and other staff members will be required to wear masks or face coverings. Hand sanitizer will be widely available and hand washing encouraged throughout the day. Desks will be spaced at least 6 feet apart. Students will stay with the same small groups throughout the day to study and at lunch time.

Letters from the principals have been sent home to all families in the district explaining the health protocols.

At Denair High, the focus is on the 66 seniors because they only have a few months left until graduation on May 28. Those students recently were surveyed about coming back to campus; 48 responded. Of that group, 25 are committed to returning to campus, 14 said they preferred to stay on 100% distance learning and nine were leaning to in-person instruction.

DHS teachers also were surveyed and 11 of the 17 said they are willing to host small groups of seniors in their classrooms.

The system will work this way at the high school:

  • Seniors will be placed in small stable groups of 5-10 students with 1-2 adults.
  • Students will participate in a combination of in-person and distance learning in one classroom, five days per week from 8 a.m. to noon.
  • Students will receive lunch at noon in individual bags delivered by a classified employee to the classroom in which they are grouped.
  • After lunch, students have the option to remain on campus for asynchronous learning support from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. daily. 

The rest of Denair High’s juniors, sophomores and freshmen will remain on distance learning, unless they are part of the learning cohorts already allowed on campus.

At DECA, in-person classes will run from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Students must be dropped off beginning at 7:50 a.m. and picked up as soon as possible after 11:30 a.m. Breakfasts will be served each morning and to-go lunches provided each day.

All students returning to campus must pass a temperature and health check before they are allowed to leave their car and enter campus. Anyone will a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be sent home.

Elementary students will be kept in the same small groups while on campus. Masks are required, 6-foot distancing and hand washing will be enforced and specific routes to classes assigned. No school supplies can be shared and the playground equipment will be off-limits.

Denair is among the many districts in Stanislaus County determining the best and safest ways to resume face-to-face instruction. All of the districts have been encouraged by the Stanislaus County Office of Education to provide an in-person option to students by March 15.

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