We just completed our fifth week of school in Chino Valley Schools and a lot has happened over the last month. When school started on August 10th, all students started with At Home Instruction. On August 17th, some of our more severe and moderately disabled students began in person, on campus instruction. These students were the students that were least likely be successful with At Home Learning.
During this time, the benchmarks determined by the state that were to be used by schools to guide opening decisions were beginning to decrease. These benchmarks are the number of cases per 100 thousand in population, the percent of positive PCR tests, and the percentage of hospitalizations that are COVID related.
At their August board meeting, the Chino Valley Schools governing board voted to open schools to hybrid instruction on September 8th and to open schools to all in person instruction on October 19th. These opening dates were dependent on the benchmark data being in the ranges that would call for hybrid and then all in person instruction. Fortunately, the benchmarks were in the ranges for hybrid instruction before hybrid instruction began last week.
You may be asking yourself, what is hybrid instruction? In Chino Valley Schools, hybrid instruction is where one-third of the students attend school in person on Monday and Wednesday and another third attend school on Tuesday and Thursday. On their off days, these students participate in at home instruction. In our case, one-third of our students have voluntarily chosen to continue full time at home instruction. Students and staff that come onto campus have their temperature taken and must wear face coverings. Some of the safety precautions that the district took include installing hand sanitizer stations in every classroom and retrofitting drinking fountains with bottle filling fixtures. With the limited number of students on campus, hybrid instruction allows students and staff to better maintain social distancing while on campus and buses.
The benchmarks continue to decrease, and the percent positivity and percent hospitalizations are now in the minimal risk range. The number of cases continues to be in the moderate risk range but is approaching the minimal risk range. We are hopeful that all three benchmarks will be in the minimal risk range before fall break so that in person instruction can begin when students return to school after fall break on October 19th.
When at home learning began in March of last school year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal department that administers the National School Lunch Program, recognized that many families across the US were experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic and provided waivers to the school lunch program. In Chino Valley Schools this meant that parents could pick up multiple meals at once. In addition, parents were able to pick up meals at one of the district schools or were able to pick up meals that were delivered to designated bus stops. With the beginning of school, the USDA rescinded the waivers and the school lunch program reverted to a program similar to the normal program.
Early last week we were excited to learn that the USDA reversed course and has reauthorized some of the waivers for the school lunch program. For Chino Valley Schools, all students will get a free breakfast and lunch while at school. In addition, students will be offered a free breakfast and lunch when they leave for home for the next day while they are learning at home. For those children that are only learning at home or are not enrolled in Chino Valley Schools, 4 days of meals (4 breakfasts and 4 lunches) can be picked up at Territorial Early Childhood Center from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday or at designated bus stops on Mondays only.
We all recognize that the best place for our students is in the classroom and we hope to be to that point soon. For more information about Chino Valley Schools please visit our website at www.chinovalleyschools.com or our Facebook page @chinovalleyschoolsarizona.