The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) administration is bumping elementary school students up from two to four in-person learning days each week. Starting Monday, October 26, all kindergarten through sixth-grade students in the HUUSD will transition to a four-day in-person learning model in which they only study from home on Wednesdays. Seventh- through 12-grade students, however, will remain in their current two-day in-person learning model.

The news of more in-person school days for elementary students came from Superintendent Brigid Nease, who released a statement on October 8 outlining the district’s transition plan, along with various parent and staff survey results.

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Of the 70% of kindergarten through fifth-grade parents who responded to the administration’s most recent survey, 45% wanted kindergarten through fifth-graders to transition to five days of in-person learning, 33% wanted four days, and 20% wanted to remain in the two-day in-person model. As Nease pointed out in her statement, by comparing how many parents prefer to stay in the current model to those who wanted to transition to more in-person days, one can see that the majority of parents, 78%, want more in-person school days for their kids.

Of the 76% of staff that responded to the survey, 12% wanted kindergarten through fifth graders to transition to five days of in-person learning, 38% wanted four days of in-person learning and 47% wanted to remain in the two-day in-person model.

Note that the HUUSD surveys stopped at fifth grade and did not ask sixth-grade parents about their opinions. According to Nease, this is because when the administration made the survey, state guidance indicated that only kindergarten through fifth-grade students could be 3 feet apart in school, while older students needed to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from each other. New guidance, however, indicates that sixth-grade students are also allowed to be within 3 feet of each other in school. This spacing guidance from the state explains why the HUUSD chose to pursue more in-person days for elementary school students only, and not middle or high school students, who have more stringent spacing requirements.

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These spacing requirements haven’t changed since the state transitioned to Step III schooling, the step with the least rigid pandemic protocols. “Step III allows some additional flexibility around the cafeteria and gymnasium, pods and cohorts, and allows for the scheduling of interscholastic sport competition, but it has no effect on physical-distancing requirements,” said Nease. In other words, even in Step II, all students through sixth grade were allowed to be as close as 3 feet apart, while seventh- through 12th-grade students needed to maintain a 6-foot minimum distance from one another.

With Step III schooling, however, students who can maintain these distance requirements could theoretically go to school for five days of in-person learning. However, Nease decided that Wednesdays will remain remote, because a day off allows for the deep cleaning of school buildings. Moreover, it provides a “mask break” for students and staff and keeps teachers in touch with their remote learning skills.