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Madera’s school doors to stay closed

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

The Lopez family, from left, Zachary, Estrella, and Rayne, receive a thermometer and food boxes from Madera Unified School District during a distribution at Alpha Elementary School. Madera Unified School District has announced its schools will not hold classes at their sites due to a July 17 directive from Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom.


Gov. Gavin Newsom puts the county on a ‘watch list’

Madera Unified School District has announced that its schools will not hold classes at their school sites due to a July 17 directive from Governor Newsom.

In his communication, the Governor announced the creation of a “COVID-19 Monitoring List and ordered that any school district located in any county on that list must start the new school year with “distance learning.”

Since Madera is on the list, Madera Unified must comply with the ruling. The only way local schools will be able to open their doors will be if Madera County is taken off the list and stays off for 14 days.

By the same token, if after being allowed to conduct in-person learning, five percent of the students or staff of a given school test positive within a 14-day period, or if 25 percent of the schools within the district are shut down in a 14-day period, the entire district will revert to distance learning.

The county health officer will play a large part in determining if and when a county is removed from the monitoring list. Data in the county such as the number of cases per 100,000, the rate of test positivity, local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, and contact tracing are factors that will be used to determine whether or not a county remains on the list.

Meanwhile, Madera Unified staff is preparing for two scenarios: distance learning and in-person learning. It will implement distance learning via computers beginning with the first day of school. At the same time, administrators will continue to plan for the return to in-person learning.

This latest move in the school-opening drama has not caught MUSD officials off guard. With the fluctuating data all over the state, Madera Unified has been preparing for any eventuality, including strengthening its distance learning program. According to district officials, the distance learning model “will be vastly different from the emergency distance learning we quickly pivoted to in March when schools initially closed physically.”

This time the distance learning model will reflect the new intensity that planning has allowed. It includes regular attendance, increased emphasis on teacher-student engagement, daily interaction among peers, progress monitoring, grading, small group support, daily live interaction with teachers, challenging assignments, adopted lessons for English Language Learners and Special Education students, parent support, and ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the school year.

The district hosted a virtual information session on Monday evening to discuss the Governor’s new guidelines and MUSD’s next steps and presented the school board and the public with the latest information at the regular meeting of the trustees on Tuesday evening.

Madera County is one of 32 counties that has been placed on the COVID-19 Monitoring List. Valley counties on the list, in addition to Madera, include Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Merced.

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