Visalia Unified submits plans to bring back thousands of students under waiver system

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Chia Xiong is grateful her boss lets her bring son to the office. She can work and he can hop on his Chromebook to connect to the classroom.

But Xiong says six-year-old Angel is a social butterfly, and because of distance learning, he's not able to spread his wings.

"He will refer back to...playing with his friends," Xiong said. "Just being on the playground or just being able to share the experience of learning things with his classmates."

On Wednesday, Visalia Unified School District submitted their 215-page elementary school waiver to the Tulare County Public Health Department, which details their plans to safely bring approximately 14,000 students back to 28 elementary school campuses for in-person learning.

To help with social distancing and cleaning, students would be divided into two groups: Group A in the morning, Group B in the afternoon.

District Superintendent Tamara Ravalin knows it could take some time before the county and state approve the waiver.

"It's a collaborative process and we want to go through that," Ravalin said. "And we've been very careful to listen to our health officials because our job is to keep our students and staff safe."
If they receive approval, Ravalin says they would start by bringing back TK-2nd graders on November 30th. Third-6th graders would return the week after.

Students would continue to learn independently during the times of the day they're not at their school site.

"But this will be a lot easier with the students there physically in school," Ravalin added. "For the teachers to check for understanding and to gauge where their students are so that when they do send work home for them to do independently, it can be more customized."

District leaders also know waiver approval will also allow students like Angel to get back to what they miss most-making social and emotional connections with their friends and teachers.
"I would love him to go back to school," Xiong said. "My only concern is what their safety procedures are and what they're planning to implement when the kids are back in class."

Parents like Xiong will be surveyed within the next week.

Before waiver approval, the district would like to know which students are coming back, and who will continue with distance learning.

In the meantime, families can see the district's elementary school reopening plan on their website.
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