Saturday, April 10, 2021

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Maxwell students return to school full time

Maxwell Unified School District students have returned to campus full time, nearly one year to the day after California schools shut down in massive numbers amid coronavirus fears.
The district reestablished its full-day schedule on Monday, with most students in grades K-12 returning to in-person learning for the entire day.

The school closed to in-person education on March 18, 2020 and reopened in August to only partial in-person instruction after the teachers’ union blocked efforts to return to their classrooms, citing “safety” concerns.

Superintendent Summer Shadley said the district will still accommodate students who have requested to remain in distance learning. About 24 students in all grades (nine at the high school) have elected not to return to campus.

The district also reestablished attendance requirements for seniors to graduate – a requirement that had been loosened last year and the first three quarters of the 2020-2021 school year.

“We are going to reinstate the 95 percent attendance, just for the fourth quarter,” Shadley said. “So, it comes out to about 21 class periods that they can miss and still be eligible to walk.”

Shadley said the district and Maxwell Teachers Association have negotiated an increase in salaries for teachers to teach their students both in-person and distant, rather than contracting out the remote learning to Edgenuity, a “virtual teacher” platform.

“It was either pay Edgenuity or pay our teachers, so that is what the teachers have agreed to,” Shadley said.

Students who opted to remain in distance learning, will – as of Monday – be required to remain in distant learning the remainder of the school year, Shadley said.

The return to school will require students and district staff to follow safety protocols, such as wearing facial coverings, social distancing, and increased COVID-19 testing.

The district will receive additional funding for COVID-19 related expenses from the State of California to meet safety requirements and give the students some normalcy to their education experience, officials said.

With various sports teams set to play, the district is possibly looking to purchase an outdoor volleyball court to eliminate daily COVID-19 testing over the next five weeks for only indoor sports.

Outdoor sports, such as football, baseball, and softball, are currently exempt from daily testing, although the rules have changed repeatedly, Shadley said.

“We can talk to other districts about possibly a shared court,” Shadley said. “If not, we can move forward with testing on indoor sports.”

At their March 10 meeting, the school board acknowledged that distant education has negatively impacted its students, which may require students to attend summer school to recover lost credits.

Shadley said the number of F’s students received increased from 15 period F’s (nine students), pre-pandemic, to 52 period F’s (29 students) at the end of the third quarter of the 2019-2020 school year.

There were 88 period F’s going into the third quarter 2020-2021, which ended Friday, but Shadley expected that number to decrease as teachers worked with students to make up assignments before the cutoff.

“The point is, we still have a huge need for credit recovery,” Shadley said. “We just have to figure out how to move these kids through the classes without holding them back.”

Shadley said that while the students are excited to return to a full day and already “seemed different,” there would still be a need to go back and fix the gaps in their lost education.

According to a deluge of data released on education, the pandemic caused widespread learning loss, especially concerning younger students who significantly dropped in reading scores compared to previous years.

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