KING CITY — School board members from the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District discussed the beginning of school and plans for potential reopening in the future during the Aug. 26 board meeting.
“I talked to teachers the first day of school and it was so different coming back because it wasn’t the first day of school, there were no kids,” said board member Linda Benway.
Superintendent Brian Walker called the circumstances around the district’s year opening were the “most challenging” ones ever.
As schools continue through their first semester, the state has issued requirements on tracking students.
“We’re going to be doing daily participation monitoring and then you have to do weekly engagement,” Walker said. He noted this was a requirement from the state to have the data recorded and reported in lieu of daily attendance in physical classrooms.
In addition to truancy concerns, an educational divide has appeared for students who need more attention or a different learning environment than home. While this could include special education students, some have been determined to simply need structure more akin to what can be provided in a classroom.
“The state has realized there are some students who need to have some on-campus time,” Walker said.
The response has been the state issuing guidance for allowing small groups of students back on campuses in shutdown regions, such as Monterey County.
“What they’re calling targeted support services, to allow them to come back on campus,” Walker said.
Those students will return to campus to get the support, supervision and atmosphere to help them do better. Walker said negotiations with the teachers’ union have been ongoing to make the return for those small groups happen as soon as possible.
“We’re putting together all the necessary adjustments in curriculum and how we deliver instruction,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can to help students learn.”
As for the overall reopening of high schools in Greenfield and King City, Walker said plans are being developed as if Monterey County had an all clear before the second semester.
“The ideal timing would be at semester for us, which is the ideal break to do changes,” Walker said. “We’re going to plan as if we have students coming back for that second semester.”
While those plans are underway, Walker noted the district doesn’t know for sure when the “all clear” will be for students to return to campuses, and that the semester break is only an assumption for purposes of putting together plans. However, the small learning groups would return before then.
“The smaller group we want to have almost immediately,” Walker said about their timing.
Walker also reported to the board that interviews for the new vice principal at Greenfield High School are ongoing. He credited John McKenzie with running the school during summer, and that the district seeks to get McKenzie assistance soon.
Damon Felice of Felice Consulting Services said the $16 million in projects underway at Greenfield and King City high schools are on track for completion by the 2021-22 school year, after some delays due to Covid-19.
“We knew Covid was an issue, but we assumed Aug. 4, kids would be back in school, that was always the push in the beginning, but that didn’t happen,” Felice said.