By John Scholl
Superintendent, Chino Valley Schools
With winter break behind us, we are officially halfway through the school year. The end of the first semester was unfortunately a bit rough as the increase in COVID-19 cases hit the staff of Chino Valley Schools hard. As the cases increased, the Governing Board voted to end the semester with At Home Learning for most students. At one point with a week left in the semester, approximately 20% of the District’s employees were in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19 or in quarantine having been exposed to someone with COVID-19. In order be prepared for the anticipated increase in cases after winter break, the Governing Board extended At Home Learning through January 18th.
At their January board meeting, the governing board received input from parents, staff, and administration on how the district should proceed after January 18th. After deliberating, the Governing Board voted to have students in grades Pre-K through 5th return to school on a hybrid instructional model where only half of the students are on campus at any one time. This will allow for better opportunities for social distancing and safer classrooms. Middle school and high school students will continue with At Home Learning through at least the next board meeting in February.
For most of the school year, Chino Valley Schools has had special needs students at school on a regular schedule. I have had a number of people question why special needs students are allowed on campus and not all students. The self-contained special needs classrooms that are currently in person are where our most at risk and needy students learn.
Although many students are struggling with At Home Learning, in many cases these special needs students have zero chance of being successful with At Home Learning. In addition, these classes tend to have a small number of students where it is much easier to maintain a safe environment for both students and staff. With these small class sizes if a staff member or student did come to school while positive for COVID-19, only a limited number of students and staff would need to be quarantined. In contrast our middle school and high school students and staff can easily come into contact with well over 100 people during the school day.
On a positive note, the Yavapai County Education Services Agency has scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations for Chino Valley Schools staff. The county has begun vaccinating those in group 1B which includes school staff. Our vaccination day is January 27th, and we are working on the transportation and timing logistics to get employees vaccinated.
My mantra continues to be Chino Valley students learn better and Chino Valley teachers teach better when students are on campus. However, this needs to continue to be balanced with the health and safety of students and staff. We hope to have all students back on campus every day as soon as possible.