FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Students in the Central Valley’s largest school district are now back on campus for in-person learning. For many, it is the first time since last March.
Fresno Unified teachers have spent months preparing for their students’ return to class. At Ericson Elementary, 425 kids are returning for in-person learning.
“This last three weeks there’s been a lot of excitement. Our teachers have been coming to their classrooms and cleaning them out arranging desks,” said principal Tina Rodriguez.
It has taken a lot for Fresno Unified to welcome more students back on campus. Superintendent Bob Nelson says for labor unions representing its employees, it was about safely returning to work in the midst of a pandemic.
“What changed was getting universal access to the vaccine and for us to get some testing protocols and regimens in place by which we could actually do that and say that we’re doing it safely,” said Nelson.
With safety protocols in place, the district worked to accommodate its families. A survey showed that 60% wanted to return for in-person learning and 40% plan to remain in online learning.
“One of the things that’s really complex in a situation where you have some people that want to stay out, and some that don’t, is you have to decide if you’re going to keep teachers and kids in the same connective space.”
Schools like Ericson Elementary will operate on a hybrid schedule: groups of students on campus two days a week and online teaching the other days.
To make sure students stay with the same teacher they have had all year for distance learning, instructors like Archie Serrato do simultaneous teaching both in-person and online.
“We will have students who will be at home and then we got people in person, students in person so just being able to communicate with both at the same time that in itself will be a challenge,” said Serrato.
Serrato helped train 125 teachers who piloted the program earlier this semester. He says the best part was having students in class.
“Their faces, I know you can see their smile but their eyes you could tell they were smiling, just being in person.”
Serrato has also experienced what having kids back in class can do to their performance.
“Their participation increased, you could tell their understanding increased and you could just tell they were happy.”