Preparation for the 2021-22 Clovis Unified School District (CUSD) school year continues as the 2020-21 school year dwindles to its last few weeks.
The CUSD governing board discussed commitment forms, masking mandates and vaccinations for the upcoming school year at the May 5 board meeting.
On April 30, every parent within the district received an email containing a commitment form for the upcoming school year. CUSD sent out more than 43,000 emails out to families.
As of the meeting, only 15,759 questionnaires were returned by parents to the district, with less than 1% of them indicating continued enrollment in online learning.
The district hopes to receive all commitment forms by May 7 to prepare for staffing and spacing for students.
CUSD Board President Dr. Steven Fogg questioned whether requiring parents to commit to a plan this far out of the school year is difficult to make this early in the year, especially with the uncertainty of where guidelines will be by August.
Associate Superintendent School Leadership Dr. Corrine Folmer said that having families commit now may be a tough decision, but the district also heard from many families ready to have their children return to school over the past few months.
“We want to provide them [families] with options so that they can entertain an option that fits their needs,” Dr. Folmer said. “We recognize that that may change, and we’ll continue to update our community as health and safety guidance changes occur.”
Superintendent Dr. Eimear O’Farrell agreed that an early decision-making process is needed to plan for staffing properly.
“We want to help our parents with these decisions, but we also are a very large district, and we want to plan to staff our schools accordingly after the year that we’ve just had,” Dr. O’Farrell said.
Also discussed in the meeting were requirements for masks, as some parents voiced concerns about the long-term effects of mask-wearing.
Various entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) have numerous mask guidelines and rules that must be abided by.
CUSD said that they would not impose stricter mask guidelines than what the state requires.
However, as long as mask mandates stay in place, wearing masks will continue to be required, even after California June 15 reopening date.
According to Dr. O’Farrell, Cal/OSHA is currently moving forward with changes to guidelines and rules as they are hosting public hearings on the matter.
“There is a desire for everybody to move, and at least be on the same page.” Dr. O’Farrell said. “So, we are optimistic that we’re moving forward in a good direction with some of the safety guidelines, restrictions and conditions improving around the state.”
Dr. O’Farrell says that the district will be adjusting as conditions and guidelines change but is committed to not imposing stricter guidelines than what was provided by the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
Dr. Fogg wants the board to continue pushing for students and faculty to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
CUSD does not require vaccination at the moment, and Dr. Fogg hopes that they won’t have to and that students and faculty will do their due diligence.
According to Dr. O’Farrell, because the vaccines are still in an emergency authorization state, the vaccines can not be required in the public education setting.
Dr. O’Farrell said that children as low as 12 years old are eligible for the vaccine this upcoming Monday, and talks regarding vaccinations for kids as young as six years old are ongoing.
CUSD will also delve into providing opportunities for students to receive vaccinations at school sites as more information on the vaccines becomes available.
“We will look into what we can do to provide assistance to our families who would like to have their children vaccinated,” Dr. O’Farrell said.
The CUSD has one more board meeting scheduled before the end of the school year and will hold upcoming public hearings for the 2021 to 2024 online school accountability plan and 2022 adopted budget review scheduled for May 19.