Central Unified will start new school year with distance learning

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Central Unified School District has announced that it will begin the next school year with all its classes being held online.

The district's Board of Trustees held a meeting on Tuesday night and voted to begin the 2020-21 school year with online distance learning.

"For the time being, we believe this is the safest course of action for students, staff and community alike," said board president Yesenia Carrillo.

The decision comes a day after Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified - California's two largest school districts - announced that in the wake of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the state, classes won't start with students at facilities.

RELATED: Los Angeles School District school year won't start with students at facilities amid COVID-19 pandemic

Central Unified School District is the third-largest school district in Fresno County, serving 16,069 students in 21 schools.

On August 12th, its students will start in Stage 2 - remote learning with some one-on-one instruction if needed, officials said.

Discussions with local medical experts on the recent surge of COVID-19 cases led to the district's decision.

"That weighed heavily on our minds as well and that definitely played into the decision to go to Stage 2 as opposed to Stage 3 and basically have our start of the year with distance learning," said Central Unified Superintendent Andrew Alvarado.

Stage 3 would have taken a hybrid approach, with half of the student body on campus. But Alvarado said a social distancing requirement to have all kids six feet apart while still wearing masks couldn't be met.

He added, "We also felt it was important for us to actually help reduce community spread and just bringing kids back to the schools and classrooms is counter-productive to that effort."

State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond believes districts like Central Unified were making the right decision.

Thurmond said on Wednesday, "The conditions that we see now and if school were to open tomorrow, it seems clear that we would need to be in a protective mode and distance learning provides that."

RELATED: Most California schools 'shouldn't reopen' if COVID-19 trends continue, state superintendent says

Another school district in Fresno County, Selma Unified, announced on Tuesday that it had opted for 100% online learning for its students.

The school district made the decision, approving full 'improved' distancing learning.

Clovis Unified school board members will vote on Wednesday on their plan for their students.

The Clovis Unified school board on Wednesday night was considering two options. One was a traditional five-day a week schedule on campus with an option for remote learning. The other was a hybrid model where some students would be on campus while others would be online.

On Monday, the Fresno Unified School District's superintendent, Bob Nelson, announced his school district was also 'discussing' starting the year in purely digital mode.

A decision is expected on Friday.
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