Students in Tracy Unified School District can begin schoolwork at home soon with educational packets provided by the district during school closures spurred by the COVID-19 virus.
On the recommendation of the San Joaquin County superintendent of schools, local schools and public schools across the county closed for three weeks, March 16-April 3, to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
In a letter to parents on Thursday, TUSD announced that it was compiling optional coursework in English language arts and mathematics that will be made available in the next week for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The district will also provide a recommended daily routine that students can follow.
Students are not expected to turn in the work they complete, which will not be graded or collected by teachers. Students also will not be tested on the material in the coursework packets.
Packets will be available either as downloads or printed copies. Families can download PDF packets starting Monday from the TUSD website or their school’s website. Printed packets can be picked up at schools on Thursday or Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Rob Pecot, Tracy Unified’s director of student services, said Tuesday that the situation that led to the closure was unique.
“This is an unprecedented phenomenon. There’s no playbook for this,” he said. “We’re trying to keep essential services open, feeding students, taking care of facilities. We still need to do basic services like provide payroll to our employees and look to hire, because we have to manage the current situation and we’ve got to prepare for when we do reopen and we’re back to normalcy.”
With students expected to return to school April 6, the school district is waiting to hear from the governor’s office and the state whether they will need to make up the missed school days, which would push the end of the school year from May into early June. Pecot said that Tracy Unified was planning to have its spring break as normally scheduled, April 10-17, but the situation is uncertain.
“Things have been changing not by the day, they have been changing by minute, so that is the plan as of right now,” he said.
He said administrators have had some early discussions about the high school graduation ceremonies that normally take place in late May, but nothing has been decided.
“As the rules seem to change of gatherings from 250 people a few days ago, now it’s down to 50, and now it’s down to 10, I think it’s safe to say if that is in place, it would impact a potential graduation ceremony,” Pecot said Tuesday. “Graduation is our biggest event. It’s the culmination of 12-13 years for students. If we can do something, we’re going to have it.”
At a press conference later that afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said 98.8% of schools across the state had closed, with some rural districts still open but likely to close soon.
“Let me be candid, this is a very sober thing to say and I can’t say this with certainty, but I can say this quite learnedly: Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week. Please don’t anticipate in a few weeks,” Newsom said. “I would plan and assume that many of these schools — few, if any, will open before the summer break.”
Then, Thursday night, Newsom issued an open-ended order for everyone in the state to stay home as much as possible.
Pecot explained that TUSD could not move to 100% online distance learning because not all students have access to computer equipment and the internet at home.
“Have to make sure that all of our students have the resources available,” he said. “It is too early to say specifically what we would do, but we are making plans to accommodate students’ learning should we have an extended closure.”
If county or state officials extend the school closures past April 3, as now seems likely, TUSD will provide more information to families at that time.