The Hollister School District is now part of the growing list of districts in the region that are moving forward with a distance learning model at the start of the new school year.
The Board of Trustees held a special meeting July 21 where they unanimously decided to implement a full distance learning model on the first day of school Aug. 17.
The board has final authority over switching to hybrid or full in-person instruction if San Benito County is removed from the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. Superintendent Diego Ochoa said the district may implement a “hybrid” model or a full return given the improvement of public health circumstances.
“That language gives this board the ability to determine when that has taken place according to the orders that are given to us,” he said. “It really gives this board flexibility.”
Ochoa said during the meeting that the main change from the original guidance and recommendations document is that school districts can only reopen in-person instruction if the county is off the state’s watch list.
“As a result of being on the list our district has two options,” he said. “When, and if, San Benito County would come off of the list it would not require us to immediately bring students back but rather we would have a decision to make.”
Ochoa said he wanted to make it clear to the board that during the process they retain the right to decide when it’s right to bring students back on campus. He mentioned they would need to emphasize the guidelines as steadily as possible if the district decides to use a “hybrid” model.
The hybrid model would split students into two groups: A and B. Group A would attend Mondays and Tuesdays, while Group B would attend Thursdays and Fridays, leaving Wednesday open for facility cleaning by the custodial team.
Trustee Jan Grist brought up the concern of having the students go back and forth “like a yo-yo” from distance learning to hybrid and back. Ochoa said the board will have to determine whether going into a hybrid model only to come out three weeks later might cause more problems.
Trustee Steve Kain said he has been looking at what colleges and universities are doing in terms of going full distance learning for the semester. He said he believes HSD should go the same route.
“Granted I like the hybrid plan to get started with, but I can’t see switching back and forth like this,” he said. “When you bring up parents, that’ll be the worst thing we can do to them.”
President Rob Bernosky said he was contrary to the idea of keeping the students at home until December and supported the district offering access to the hybrid model if it becomes available.
Bernosky said there’s a divide within the community and he wants to accommodate the 50 percent who believe schools should reopen.
“I would just like us to remain open minded about it because the bottom line is there’s a huge amount of the population that does want it,” he said.