The Hollister School District Board of Trustees held its regular board meeting on June 23 where they voted unanimously to approve the proposed draft plan for reopening schools.
The plan provides HSD parents the opportunity to choose one of two options, a hybrid model or the online-only model known as Rise Academy.
The hybrid model will consist of two full school days where students will be divided into two groups, A and B. Group A will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, while Group B will attend Thursdays and Fridays, leaving Wednesday open for facility cleaning by the custodial team. According to Superintendent Diego Ochoa, there will be a survey sent out asking parents if they have a preference for Group A or Group B.
The first day of instruction is Aug. 17.
Referencing the hybrid model, Trustee Stephen Kain said, “I’m not saying any of these plans are perfect, but to me this is the most acceptable one and the most flexible one.”
If parents do not want to engage in the hybrid model, they will need to apply to the Rise Academy, where students will work online from home under the remote supervision of a teacher. If parents do not apply for Rise, they will be automatically enrolled in one of the hybrid groups at their current school.
At the start of the meeting, a public comment expressing his lack of support for the proposed plan was submitted by parent David Patrick and read by board clerk Jan Grist. In his remarks, Patrick said he would pull his children from the district and not comply with either of the models presented, and said he would seek alternative education outside of the district for the 2020-21 school year.
Trustee Carla Torres de Luna said she has received emails from members of the community who are fearful of returning to school.
“Safety has to be what drives us,” she said, adding she’d like to see a clear response plan for when someone at a school site tests positive for COVID-19.
Torres De Luna also touched on student safety while distance learning, saying, “Without disclosing too much, I know there are some safety precautions that we learned that I think parents and teachers need to be aware of when using these devices in regards to how students interact and bullying. I hope the public understands that we are taking this so serious and safety is first.”
The school district is following the San Benito County order on face coverings which states that adults and children 12 and over are required to wear face masks while attending school. Ochoa said although face coverings will not be required by the school or school district, it would be up to individual families to decide whether or not they will send their younger children to school with masks.
As a lifelong educator and retired teacher, Grist said she would prefer to get the kids back in classrooms five days a week, but realizes that the statistics for COVID-19 in surrounding counties also affect local families because parents work outside San Benito County.
“We in San Benito County are doing pretty good, but where our people are mostly working in Santa Clara County, not so much. We are responsible for 5,600 children and 600 employees, but I really struggle with only 32 days of instruction.”
Grist said she counts on Ochoa “Having his ears to the ground to let us know, get feedback from parents and teachers because if it’s not working we need to know right away.”
Parents are encouraged to email questions and concerns to [email protected] or become active participants by calling (831) 630-6320 or emailing [email protected] before the next board meeting on July 28.