Nearly half of Denair Unified’s 1,300 K-12 students spent time on the district’s four campuses last week – another encouraging sign as the district moves to safely and responsibly restore in-person instruction.
Like most other public school districts in California, Denair’s teachers have been educating the majority of students via computer since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Last November, however, some elementary, middle school and high students needing academic and emotional support were allowed to return to their campuses to receive face-to-face instruction in “learning cohorts.”
Now, with COVID statistics finally slowly improving in Stanislaus County, Denair felt comfortable allowing students whose parents agreed to return to campus Monday. The first-week student census looks like this:
- Denair High School: 124
- Denair Middle School: 89
- Denair Elementary Charter Academy: 341
- Denair Charter Academy: 74
“It’s important to note that about half of our families have chosen to remain on distance learning, which means that teachers have both virtual and in-person duties on a daily basis,” Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger wrote to parents in a letter sent Friday.
In addition to the high school students already attending in person, seniors were the first group invited back to campus as a full class. Students were placed in small stable groups of 5-10 students with 1-2 adults. They participate in a combination of in-person and distance learning in one classroom, five days per week from 8 a.m. to noon. Some students stay through the afternoon for additional support.
DMS sixth-graders who opted for in-person learning were divided into three groups and rotate together to see all three teachers twice per week. They reman with their peers on distance learning the other three days of the week.
At the elementary campus, school runs from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Some students come to campus Monday and Tuesday; others on Thursday and Friday. All will remain on distance learning the other three days.
Metzger anticipates more students will begin in-person later this school year.
“We are currently considering what type of expansion of in-person instruction makes sense after spring break (April 2-11),” Metzger wrote in her letter. “We have to consider capacity at each campus based on safety precautions, logistics such as meal service, how to serve students who remain on distance learning and a whole host of other questions.
“We are approaching any expansion of services through a ‘reasonable and sustainable’ filter. We are also considering what summer programs might look like and will begin actively planning for this next week.”
Health-related safety precautions are in place on all of Denair’s campuses. All students, teachers and other staff members are required to wear masks or face coverings. Hand sanitizer is widely available and hand washing encouraged throughout the day. Desks are spaced at least 6 feet apart. Students will stay with the same small groups throughout the day to study and at lunch time. Denair’s teachers as well as other staff members – like all those in other Stanislaus County school districts – are eligible to receive free COVID vaccinations, regardless of age. Metzger estimated that 70 of Denair’s 200 employees have had at least one shot.