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Newport Mesa school district reopening plan has on-campus elementary learning option if safe

Along with possibly having to continue virtual learning, officials at Newport-Mesa Unified School District have crafted a reopening plan for elementary school students with options for a modified version of on-campus learning and a return to a more typical school day.

The school board on Tuesday, June 14, unanimously approved the three-level approach with scenarios that will be put in place depending on what the health climate is at the start of the school year. District officials will decide which level to open schools at two weeks before the Aug. 24 first day of classes.

There are 22 elementary schools in the district. A meeting to discuss the re-opening plan for students in grades seven through 12 is tentatively scheduled for July 21. The district has six high schools and four middle schools.

The three-levels go from virtual learning to a four-day, on-campus mix of learning opportunities that allow for spreading students out to a return to a regular school schedule should state officials move to a level where social distancing is no longer required.

“We are building a structure right now to be prepared for any contingency,” Russell Lee-Sung, deputy superintendent, said during the several-hour meeting.

Parents can also choose to enroll their child in the district’s 100%-virtual school for the semester; it’s available for grades kindergarten through 12. Principal Mike Sciacca will oversee the instruction for that program. Final staffing decisions will be made after the district gets an idea of how many students there will be.

District officials spent most of their time deciding on the nuances of the middle level of reopening, in which students will be on campus all day except for Wednesdays. On that day, students will learn in the morning, and teachers will work on teaching plans in the afternoons.

Class sizes will be kept at 16 students for social distancing. Students will get classroom instruction with a teacher either in the morning or afternoon, alternating with “extended on-campus learning,” which could mean independent study, a guest speaker or a virtual field trip. This will also the district to spread students out over more of the campus.

On bad weather days, students will only have a half-day instruction and there will be no extended learning. Students receiving Special Education services will be on full-day schedules except for Wednesdays, which will be a half-day.

“I am very concerned about the rise in numbers here in Orange County,” Lee-Sung said. “It’s really important that we follow the safety guidelines, and we really need to see those numbers coming down because that truly is jeopardizing our re-opening.”

How special programs such as music, physical education or technology instruction will fit into the education plan hasn’t been decided, Annette Franco, spokeswoman for the district, said.

Source: Orange County Register

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