Students closer to normalcy but not physically closer | #students | #parents


At this meeting, Crabtree was in complete agreement with Christenson. He said he wanted to get students back to school full time at least by the fall, but hopefully sooner.

“They have suffered far too long and I am impressed with how many parents have stepped up and willing to bring this fight at least to us,” Crabtree said. “They feel we are the only ones who can help them, but in reality this goes all the way up to Sacramento, and we are constantly dealing with them.”

Board member Joy Naylor asked if the district’s goal was still to return all students to a full schedule in fall. Ravalin said that has always been the goal, but the district must continue to offer full-time distancing learning for students in the fall under Assembly Bill 86. The bill was signed by the governor on March 5 and included billions for districts to reopen schools to in-person instruction, at least a hybrid model, by May 15 but also required districts to offer expanded learning opportunities, such as extended instructional time and support for credit deficient students as well as continuing to offer distance learning for those who still do not feel comfortable returning to school.

Ravalin said there are others hurdles to reopening full time, including transportation and nutrition. Currently campuses cannot accommodate enough social distancing for students to eat lunch on site. Currently school sites provide grab-n-go lunches when students leave campus for the day. Students are not allowed to eat on campus and must bring their own water bottles from home.

Megan Casebeer Soleno asked if administration might have an update on the three-foot distancing at the board’s April meeting after students return from spring break on April 6.

“There will be an update, but I can’t say it will be 100% solved by then,” Ravalin said.

Graduation

The most socially inclusive news Ravalin provided to the board was that the district will be allowing up to 10 people per family to attend a walk-up graduation at VUSD stadiums. She said small groups students will be scheduled for specific time slots and can walk along the track up to the podium with their family for photo opportunities in front of displays along the way. She said the commencement ceremonies will be ticketed with the student’s name, time and date, and will be numbered by the district to ensure the 10-person limit.

“The tickets will be on thick, shiny silver paper and will act as a keepsake memento,” Ravalin said.

Board member Christopher Pope asked why the district couldn’t use more of the stadium seating and the field to allow for a more traditional ceremony but limit the number of family members to two or three. He said students on distance learning might not want to attend an in-person graduation at all, which could get the district closer to having all students and parents at a single ceremony.

“Students were very excited to bring up to 10 family members,” Ravalin said. “There are trade offs … and it might be hard for families to choose two or three instead of 10.”

Band

The CDC’s ruling didn’t improve things for student musicians either.

Ravalin said band and chorus are still high-risk activities and are require to have 10 feet of space between them. As of March 12, the California Department of Public Health’s guidance for the use of brass and woodwind instruments was that they “continues to be specifically not advised…” but promised to provide expanded guidance for band and drumline in the coming weeks.

Parent Dorise Fiera said the last two weeks were “quite unbelievable” for VUSD band students who are constantly fighting to recapture the waning moments of their school year. Visual and performing arts (VAPA) programs have been hit especially hard by the pandemic as rules have prohibited band and choir from performing in groups and have tried to piece together online videos and live streamed performances without in-person practices.

Fiera said Tulare County Public Health had left the decision up to the districts and band parents had to fight them to allow them to have band, to reduce the distance from 30 feet to 10 feet and now to use personal protective equipment (PPE) already purchased for the band.

“All of those were long fought battles,” Fiera said. “Why is everything a battle for some kids? It’s time for VUSD to treat VAPA with the same respect other student groups have received.”

The PPE for band she is referring to are bell covers, a thin fabric that slips over where sound exits from brass and woodwinds where air is forced through the instrument. The cover prevent saliva droplets, where the virus lives, from leaving the instrument. Ravalin said there is no proof that bell covers work on instruments as there have only been preliminary studies on their effectiveness.

“What we do know is they become saturated with saliva, and saliva carries the COVID virus and becomes a bio-hazardous waste and requires special sanitation, gloves, disposals and things like that,” Ravalin said.

She said maintaining the 10 feet rule allows for more than 6 feet of spray from instruments so that bell covers would not be needed. VUSD Director Health Services Susie Skadan, a registered nurse, said there are instrumental masks with a slit for the mouth to blow into the instrument but they don’t stop the saliva from spraying from the instrument.

“It’s not proven to be effective and we don’t want to make something that might be more hazardous,” Skadan said.

When Board member John Crabtree asked how much spit comes out of a tuba during a performance, Skadan said she didn’t know.

“Probably nobody does,” Crabtree scoffed. “This whole things sounds so ridiculous to me. Give me a break!”



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