Siskiyou high school students will return to classrooms five days a week, but days will be shortened
Trustees voted Wednesday evening to bring students back to campus five days a week at Mount Shasta, Weed, Happy Camp and McCloud high schools beginning March 29.
Students will attend a shortened day from 8:15 a.m. until 1 p.m., leaving campus before lunch, as they have been doing since Feb. 22, when the schools transitioned to a hybrid model. Families may also opt to continue distance learning full time, said Siskiyou Union High School District superintendent Mike Matheson.
Mount Shasta High School principal Sati Shah said about 20% of the district's students have opted for the 100% online program and do not visit campus at all.
As part of the SUHSD board's decision, schools will provide on campus, in person academic tutoring and credit recovery from 1 to 3 p.m. for students that are struggling after more than a year of online and hybrid learning, Matheson said.
The distance between students in classrooms will be reduced from 6 feet to 4 to 5 feet, or the equivalent of 22 students per class.
Several parents attended the meeting, urging trustees to allow students to return to campus full time.
Matheson said he came away from Wednesday's meeting, held via Zoom, "very energized that we have a clear path forward." He said he's pleased to have a plan to bring students back on campus every day, and he's happy to offer in-person time for students who need extra support.
The vote was 6-1, with Weed area trustee Jana Blevins casting the sole dissenting vote. Blevins said she is "willing to take a risk" and was in favor of the option that would bring students back five days a week, full time.
"I'm really concerned about our students," Blevins said. "I hear parents talking about what they're experiencing with their children and their real life stories and it's just breaking my heart ... If we were really creative we could come up with a way to do this."
"I just don't think there's ever going to be a time when there's no risk," Blevins added. "We're going to have to live with this and we've been out of school a year ... how long will this go on?"
Mt. Shasta area trustee Lori Harch noted that many of the district's students are already socializing with each other on a daily basis, a statement that student trustee Caleb Hanson confirmed.
Matheson was mainly concerned about moving forward with further reopening while Siskiyou County was still in the purple COVID-19 reopening tier. That concern was made moot after the state on Friday loosened requirements necessary to move out of the most restrictive tiers, transitioning Siskiyou to "red" on Saturday, March 13.
He explained that keeping the current shortened block schedule will help the district's four schools most effectively share teachers, as is the case in some Mount Shasta, McCloud and Happy Camp classes.
At the end of a discussion that lasted more than two hours, Mt. Shasta area trustee Gregg Gunkel made the motion to reopen five days a week with shortened days, using the hours between 1 and 3 p.m. for academic tutoring. Sunny Green, who represents the Weed area seconded the motion. Harch, McCloud trustee Jeff Berryman, Mount Shasta trustee Mindy Hamann and Happy Camp representative Becky Lantow also voted yes on the reopening plan.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.