Florence Unified School District students working remotely since July 22 are heading back to class Oct. 5.
The FUSD Governing Board recently voted unanimously to approve delaying in-person instruction and to begin no earlier than the scheduled first day of the second quarter, which is Oct. 5.
Parents must choose by Sept. 28 if their child is to continue learning online with the Florence Virtual Academy or begin in-person learning on Oct. 5, Dr. Adam Leckie, FUSD assistant superintendent, said at a work session prior to the Aug. 11 meeting.
“[W]e wantedto make sure we had enough time both to give parents an opportunity to kind of go through all of the information, get all of their questions answered — we have [frequently asked questions] videos that we are putting out every Friday to try to disseminate as much information as we can. So they’ll be choosing by the 28th, and we’ll take that information and identify how many students from each site are moved over, we’ll select our teaching staff that will be reallocated from school sites to Florence Virtual Academy, train them, and then get all of the organization set up to begin instruction soon after when the board decides the return to in-person learning can resume,” he said.
Cleaning protocols have been established to keep students and staff safe, Dr. Leckie said.
“We know that there’s no absolutes. We’re doing our best to work within the constraints that we have as a district to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our families, our staff and our students,” he said. “We’ve bought face coverings for both staff and students; we have both face shields and we’re even looking at potentially getting clear masks for staff and potentially some students if they need it while they are on campus.”
Plexiglas barriers have been installed in front offices and high-traffic areas. Plexiglas or vinyl barriers have been installed in classrooms if teachers have requested them, he said.
A total of 90% of the district’s teachers surveyed want to return to in-person instruction on Oct. 5 and 60% preferred earlier, FUSD Superintendent Chris Knutsen said.
“My own son is sitting at home right now, and I don’t like it,” he said. “Here at Florence Unified, we’re the only district in the state to have in-person graduation this past May and we held a track meet in June where we brought in 500 kids from across the country and had a track meet at Poston Butte. Everyone wore masks. Everyone wore masks at graduation and no one caught COVID because we tracked it. We e-mailed people after the track meet and nobody caught it, so that pretty much tells you about how I feel about this.”
The FUSD Governing Board met for a work session and meeting in the auditorium of the Florence Unified School District Office, 1000 S. Main St., with members of the public in attendance.
Voting to begin in-person instruction Oct. 5 were President Denise Guenther, Vice President Jim Thomas and board members Steve Johnson, Katrina Solis and Bob Dailey.
Ms. Solis said her daughter, a high school student, would prefer to continue learning online.
“She’s in dance and I’m thinking ‘How are you going to do dance virtually?’ but if it’s working ... and she is loving it. I want her to go back to class — I want her to be in school like yesterday — but she’s loving this online platform and she wants to continue online, and I’m struggling with that,” she said. “I’m not struggling with that because I think it’s wrong, but it’s different. So I just encourage everyone to think outside of the box and relax a little bit.”
Mr. Johnson says his No. 1 goal is that all kids are safe.
“That’s your kids, our kids, because we’ve got to make sure we give them the safest environment possible. Second-most important goal is to give them the best education we can with the resources that we have available. And then the third thing we have is that we have to make sure that we are using the taxpayers’ dollars in the most fiscally responsible way that we can to administer the business of school and to make sure our education system runs,” he said.