Banning continues to feed

The Pass area’s public schools will have a virtual start later this summer, with Banning beginning Aug. 17, and Beaumont starting earlier on Aug. 6, with all students studying in place in their own homes.

Beaumont is scheduled to release broader details about its plans for reopening on Friday.

Banning had a chance to work out the kinks to its technical apparatus as it hosted a virtual school board meeting Saturday to explain how that district will roll out plans for the start of its school year.

Banning’s Director of Student Services Barbara Wolford explained that the district wants to ensure school re-openings will incorporate good health, wellness and safety, and that instruction will be standards- and assessment-based.

The district promises to adhere to distancing guidelines, limit activities that could involve high contact with others, and frequent hand sanitizing availability.

Superintendent Natasha Baker said that student learning in Banning will be “100 percent virtual learning” from August through October, based on a fluid timeframe that is dependent upon state and county health department mandates that change often.

By January, Baker said, students might be able to return to campus in a traditional school setting.

Banning’s schools will rely on Google Classroom platforms, and teachers will be expected to set aside office hours to address students’ and families’ questions, and respond to e-mails.

Banning’s Coordinator of Instruction and Assessment Veronica Pendleton explained that prevention training and resources will be available for all stakeholders: parents will have access to training as to how to assist their children use Google Classroom and other learning platforms; the district will assure access to nutrition services, necessary technology, language accessibility and mental health support to families.

Staff will be trained to monitor for cyberbullying and learn to identify “self-harm” signals that may come from students.

Progress and attendance will be tracked, and emotional and mental health support will be guaranteed.

Wolford pointed to the district’s interest in emphasizing the “four Cs: creativity, collaboration with others, communication and critical thinking.”

Baker said that students with special needs, and those for whom English is not the primary language, will receive the support they need.

Banning had some technical glitches that it promised to smooth out before school begins: the district had not anticipated that their Zoom meeting would meet the 100-participant capacity, and spill over to those invited to participate in the Google Meets session had a capacity of 250.

Those who were late to join online had to wait until someone dropped out of the meeting in order to join in, since so many people wanted to hear what the district was going to do.

It was noted that “We won’t have to worry about having 250 students in a class” to conduct a virtual session, and assurances were made that next time the district hosts an online meeting, more people will be allowed to participate.

The district will not invest in training substitutes, and will not likely hire subs during the fall semester, Baker indicated.

“There are no perfect plans,” Baker pointed out, but having a roadmap “will allow us to serve our community and keep staff safe.”

Starting Aug. 3, all of Banning school district’s full-time employees will be in staff development, receiving training in preparation for the school year, Baker said.

School board president Jason Smith reiterated that “The roadmap is fluid and flexible due to state and county recommendations.”

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

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

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