New technology helps Merced Union High School District return to in-person learning

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of students returned to campuses across the Merced Union High School District on Monday for their first day of in-person learning since mid-March.

To prepare for the transition, the district used more than $730,000 in federal coronavirus relief funding to buy 500 cameras that track movement, along with blue tooth microphones.

The technology allows teachers to deliver lessons to students online and those in the classroom, at the same time.

The district is also using an A-B schedule to allow for in-person learning with social distancing. One group is on campus Monday and Thursday, while the other attends Tuesday and Friday.

Wednesdays alternate each week. Students still rotate classes, and lunch is served at several different stations. Superintendent Alan Peterson says the first priority is helping everyone adjust to the new normal.

He explains, "The focus is to go slow, to go fast, let's take our time, let's teach everyone the protocols and how to be successful with this and then we'll get on with the learning in a couple of weeks."

Camila Orozco was one of about 500 students who returned to Golden Valley High School for the first time since the pandemic forced the campus to close.

The school's total enrollment is nearly 2,000. Orozco says she feels safe with the extra space and sanitization procedures in place and is thankful to be around her classmates and teachers again.

She says, "It was definitely needed human interaction since we haven't seen each other for a couple of months. It was good seeing them again."

Principal Kevin Swartwood says the next steps include phasing in hands-on career technical education courses and extracurricular activities.

He explains, "They are going to start back in the shop soon with welding and engines and horticulture, that will happen. We have a med tech class that will start doing some things. We have science classes that we'll get back in the lab soon, food classes, theatre, band, all of these people are going to have students doing these things again soon."

Peterson says protocols are in place to work with the county health department if anyone on campus tests positive for COVID-19. Students also still have the option of attending online only.
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