Banning schools

Students participate in a field day event for the Banning school district's special needs students at Nicolet Middle School in 2018.

The majority of Banning’s teachers want to see their students in-person, at least a couple times a week, according to a survey by the school district.

Parents overwhelmingly seemed to reflect that sentiment, as well.

The district is expecting to submit its COVID-19 safety plan this month to the Riverside County Office of Education, outlining its plans for reopening.

“Pods” of no more than 14 people in a classroom will resume in-person instruction by late spring for special education students: if students require extra aides or support personnel such as nurses, those individuals are included in the 14 count.

In-person boot camps to help students who are behind in credits will be offered for up to six weeks starting in June.

All Banning’s students will be expected to return to campus in a hybridized system when the next school year begins Aug. 12.

Of course, all these updates came to light prior to Monday’s announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom about incentivizing schools for kindergarten through second-grade to start by April 1.

Director of Educational Services Veronica Pendleton explained at the Feb. 24 school board meeting the options the district has been considering, which include two days in-person, three days online; or five days a week of half-day in-person, with the rest of the instructional day online; or every other week scenario where students are on campus in-person one week, then alternating with the next week entirely online.

The district surveyed stakeholders to assess preferences for staff to return to in-person instruction, and the desire of parents to either send kids back to school, or continue having students learn from home.

Of 138 teachers that responded, 85 percent liked the option of having hybrid instruction with two days in-person and three days online, in which no more than 16 people would be in each classroom.

Parents on the other hand, were more exuberant to return to in-person instruction.

Out of 543 parents responding to the district’s surveys, 228 preferred traditional instruction; 142 liked the idea of having half in-person and half online instruction; and 172 would opt for solely online instruction, according to Pendleton’s figures.

If students were returned to classrooms, the two days in-person, three days online model was popular with parents in Banning.

More than 40 percent of parents, however, would prefer to see their children return to a traditional school setting.

On Monday the state released details of how it plans to help offset some of the costs for schools to reopen: $6.6 billion will be set aside to distribute to school districts to assist with in-person instruction, providing funding for personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing; and an additional $4.6 billion would be set aside to help fund summer school, tutoring services, mental health services, and funding for improved ventilation systems.

The state will require public schools in counties with fewer than 25 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases to offer in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through second-grade, and for all students with special needs by April 1 to qualify for its funding incentives.

School districts that do not comply with that mandate of opening by April 1 risk losing 1 percent of funding for each day they are not in compliance for in-person instruction.

Since Riverside County remains in the Purple Tier, the state will require COVID-19 testing at schools weekly.

As reported by Reuters, Gov. Gavin Newsom said “We expect all of our transitional kindergarten to grade two classrooms open within the next month. Our core belief is this: once you dip your toe in; once you build trust, then we will start to see a cadence of reopening across the spectrum.”

Banning’s school board met prior to the state’s announcement on Monday.

The district’s reopening plans have to be approved by the county, and then final approval and adjustments to those plans will have to await approval at the school board’s meeting later this month.

“We want everyone to be here, but we want them to be in a safe environment,” Causey-Bush said.

 Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , and messages may be left at (951) 849-4586 x114.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.


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