KING CITY — Board members from South Monterey County Joint Union High School District were recently given a tour of King City High School to see the cohort classrooms in progress.
Cohorts are small groups of students allowed to come to campus for in-person instruction, often as an intervention solution for students who have trouble with distance learning.
“We wanted to highlight how we have been rolling since October,” said Janet Matos, principal at KCHS. “King City is leading in many areas.”
While district counterpart Greenfield High School has a small number of cohorts, and many schools throughout the state either have small numbers or no cohorts, KCHS had 134 students in 15 active cohorts at the time of the Feb. 22 tour.
The school has plans to expand by another two cohorts and bring the total number of students up to 150 by early March.
The campus, however, is limited to 25% capacity on cohort numbers.
Matos said the campus began with groups of seven or eight students to see how teachers, students and parents reacted and in order to find out what would work safely.
According to officials, the school is regularly checking grade performance to see which students are on track for graduation and which are falling behind, at which point intervention strategies take place.
For those students determined not to be doing well because of obstacles relating to distance learning, they are asked if they would like to join the cohort program.
“Cohorts are voluntary participation,” Matos said.
Returning to a classroom with an in-person teacher means obstacles can be bypassed, whether they are related to online access or home issues.
“We lower some of those barriers they’re struggling with at home,” said Michael Gray, assistant principal at KCHS.
Not all of the cohort instructors are tenured teachers, as explained in a presentation before the tour. There is one long-term substitute, one migrant education instructor and three para-educators, one of which was a prior KCHS valedictorian and current UCLA student.
“From my conversations, it’s been very beneficial for our students and they’re appreciative of it,” Gray said. “Some of them didn’t realize how much they miss school. They didn’t care to be here, but when they were on distance learning, they really missed it.”
Because of the risk of Covid-19, if someone is found to be sick, a cohort can be shut down to allow for quarantine time.
Officials said cohorts at KCHS have had to be shut down for potential virus infections. When those happen, students are given time to make up their work because of the delay in schedule and to make sure they get support on campus rather than trying to work from home.
During the tour, district officials and board members got to see small groups of students in different classrooms with a teacher present. In some classrooms, students worked on laptops while the in-person teacher presented through computer camera to off-site students in a hybrid lesson format.
The overall campus was quiet, without the bustling activity of a full campus, but officials commented on how the cohort rooms were a source of activity, and kept the campus from having an abandoned feel.