Clovis Mayor Drew Bessinger joined Fresno City Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi to urge schools to allow in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year.
The argument comes after the July 17 state order for counties, including Fresno, that have been on the state’s coronavirus watchlist for two weeks to begin the school year with distance learning.
Clovis Unified School District responded by saying that it will begin its school year online, with a contingency plan to resume on-campus instruction immediately after the county is able to get off the state’s watchlist.
Previously, CUSD had voted to allow for a hybrid model of learning that would allow parents the option to either send their children to school in person or resume distance learning when school begins Aug. 17.
But Bessinger said many parents have told him in no uncertain terms that the distance learning that schools did last year did not adequately meet the academic needs of all students.
“[Parents] are also concerned that it doesn’t appear that some of their kids are doing well with a distance learning environment,” he said. “They get behind, and if this goes another school year, they’ll get further behind.”
Following school closures in March, academic learning slowed for most children and stopped for some, the CDC said in a report on the importance of students returning to campus.
A survey of 477 school districts by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education found that “far too many school districts are leaving learning to chance.”
Just one in three school districts expected teachers to provide instruction, track student engagement to monitor academic progress for all students while distance learning. Wealthier school districts were twice as likely to have such expectations compared to low-income districts.
Bessinger also stressed that safety of the students and faculty members are of the utmost importance and keeping schools closed would do more harm than good.
“Our kids need to be back in school as safely and as quickly as possible. I have spoken to some parents who are concerned about their child’s mental health. They are isolated at home. They are seeing depression in their children,” he said. “They are very concerned about them long-term.”
The CDC has concluded that children present a low risk of contracting and transmitting the disease.
According to the CDC, children and adolescents under 18-years-old account for 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of deaths.
It added that, based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, particularly if proper safety protocols are followed.
“In essence, children and adolescents are less likely to have symptoms or severe disease, if they get infected, and they do get infected,” Bredefeld said. “They also appear to less likely to become infected or spread the disease in comparison to adults.”