For months, the Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUHSD) administration and teachers have been working to design various plans to accommodate students for the coming school year, not knowing what the county and state would allow. Last Friday, Governor Newsom put an end to planning all but one plan for Galt schools – distance learning. Since COVID-19 numbers took a sharp rise, Sacramento County was put on a watch list and all schools within the boundaries of a county on the list will not be allowed to have students on campus.

Over half the counties in the state, 29 in total, are on a watch list. A county must be off the watch list for 14 days for the schools within its boundaries before being allowed to have some students on campus.

GJUHSD Superintendent William Spalding said at least the instruction parameters are clear.

“This has truly been an unprecedented time,” Spalding said. “Last week alone was quite a roller coaster ride. It is helpful that the Governor has come around to what superintendents have been asking for for some time now: clear direction, criteria, and parameters for conducting school with the prevalence of the disease in communities and the response if there is an infected person who comes to campus … Galt itself is the focus of great concern for its accelerated infection rates in Sacramento County.”

The district had very little time in March to provide students with lessons they could work on at home. Administration and staff made up five committees – Health and Safety; Scheduling and Staffing; Technology; Culture and Climate; Curriculum and Professional Development, all working on plans for reopening since early June, and a steering committee that has been keeping the board updated on meetings held every two weeks over the summer.

“We now have the benefits of experience with the distance learning mode and what we learned from that through surveys and anecdotally,” Spalding said. “We also have the benefit of time to plan over the summer for various scenarios, including distance learning, for how we conduct school this fall. We believe that the model will provide a stronger and structured educational experience for all our students, and more connection between students and their teachers.”

Spalding said they’ve worked on many aspects of distance learning, such as having computer laptops/devices distributed for home use to every student, hotspots available to students without home internet connectivity, school days with scheduled class times for instruction, streaming instruction, lessons, and content, required check ins and strict attendance accounting for students, traditional grading (A, B, C, etc.), additional support time for students/office hours, time in the schedule to check in on students, and to provide support and encouragement, improved software tools for aligning content within subject areas and improved software tools for parent outreach and communication.

Having students on campus might not be far off, according to Spalding.

“Still, we look forward to in-person instruction as soon as we’re able – very likely the Blended Model at first based on the Governor’s direction,” Spalding said. “We hope that we can encourage and rally our community to follow the simple steps that have been laid out by public health experts – hygiene, social distancing, masks, avoiding places likely to increase disease transmission, etc., so we can turn around our infection numbers and get our kids physically back to school, where they belong.”

Spalding will be presenting further information for trustees at a special teleconference meeting this Thursday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. Log on to the district’s website and click the link to join the meeting.