School district administration, teachers prepare for ‘worst case scenario’

By Staff Report

As the March 13 order to close all schools in Santa Clara County impacts thousands of local families, the Morgan Hill Unified School District is working to make sure its students find ways to continue their learning through online media and other resources.

For now, the closure goes through April 3 and the school district’s scheduled spring break comes immediately after, from April 6 to 13. The district will evaluate the COVID-19 threat whether or not to  allow students to return April 14. However, the district is planning for a “worst case scenario” that schools might not open by the end of the school year, Superintendent Steve Betando said.

Most administrative staff work at home except those who are essential for office business.

“We’re doing whatever it takes to contribute to slowing the spread of the virus and move toward a place where normalcy can return to our society and our community and the schools,” Betando said. “We feel we can also meet our obligations to our students with their learning and education and continuance of standards and concepts through a program that we are calling Flexible Learning Opportunities. Each teacher has developed a program for the students in their classes and is communicating with them remotely.”

The district is using the expertise of its teachers and school site administration to tailor their program to individual schools, classes and grade levels with content that enables students to continue their education, he said. Some teachers on special assignments provide guidance to other educators while doing online training programs for distance learning.

“There is a lot of hard work going on even though somebody might drive by the schools and see no cars,” Betando said. “I’m impressed how professionally our teachers and staff are rising up to the challenge to help students during this difficult time.”

Free lunches are also being given to make sure students who need nutritional assistance do not go hungry. Starting March 23, the district will distribute meals to children 18 and younger for a lunch and breakfast Monday through Friday to take home for five days of meals until things return to normal. The money is provided by the state.

Starting March 23, the district will work on a program for childcare for healthcare workers and first responders. It is teaming with the County Public Health Department and the County Office of Education to try a pilot program at Barrett Elementary School. If successful, this will provide essential professionals such as nurses, doctors, police and firefighters with a place for their children to stay during work hours. Many would not be able to do their jobs if they couldn’t find daycare, thus impacting the crisis if there are not enough professionals to help with health issues.

“The hope is that once we get this started we’re going to replicate it with other spots in the county,” he said.

June is graduation time and MHUSD staff has identified options for high school seniors to celebrate one of the biggest days in their lives if needed.

“No student would be deprived of a diploma if the school closures are to continue,” Betando said.

Robert Airoldi