No registration info yet for 40% of students
With less than two weeks remaining until the start of a new school year, the San Juan School District is still waiting to hear registration decisions from 40 percent of the students in the district.
District Superintendent Ron Nielson reports that on August 3, the district had received registration information from roughly 1,800 of the 3,000 students in the district. This leaves the education plans of approximately 1,200 students still unknown to the district.
Nielson said that knowing registration numbers is vital to the district plans to successfully educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district is facing a complicated set of decisions, with a goal of providing options that can be adjusted to the needs of individual communities, schools, families, and students.
As the district responds to the fluid nature of education during a pandemic, they also plan to take direction from state and tribal leadership.
Federal mandates, state funding, tribal guidelines, the changing local public health needs, and a desire to accommodate the wishes of each family and student is creating an incredibly complicated set of decisions.
When 40 percent of students have yet to register, it adds another level of complication.
Nielson pleads for students and parents to fill out the registration materials as soon as possible.
The Navajo Nation is still having weekend curfews and may mandate that schools stay closed.
In a July 20 State of the Navajo Nation address, Navajo Nation President Jonathen Nez said, “Any plan for reopening schools must be implemented with the health and safety of all students, teachers, administrators, and other employees as the top priority.
“We cannot rush the reopening of schools, whether it is done online or in person, and we absolutely cannot play politics with the health and well-being of our youth at stake.”
In contrast, Utah Governor Gary Herbert would prefer that in-person instruction take place in the schools, if possible.
On July 17, Herbert signed an order requiring face coverings to be worn by all staff, students and visitors on school properties in the state.
“We want to ensure we have the safest environment possible for students, teachers, and faculty as they return to school this fall. We trust local school districts and charters to use common sense in creating thoughtful reopening plans for the families and communities they serve.”
As part of registration, parents and guardians indicate which of three back-to-school options they prefer for their students.
The first option is face-to-face learning, which would have students return to school buildings on August 20. Those who choose this option will be expected to follow implemented state and tribal guidelines, including social distancing where possible and face covering requirements throughout the day.
This option has been popular among the schools in the mountain region of the district. Nielson said that approximately 85 percent of students in Monticello have preferred this option.
Similarly, about 70 percent of students in the Blanding-area schools favor this option as well.
The second option is blended virtual learning, with instruction at home under the direction and oversight of local teachers. The option gives students the flexibility to complete school work at home.
Nielson said this option is the clear preference of students in the river region of the district, which includes six schools on or near the Navajo Nation. Nielson estimates more than 80 percent of the students in these schools prefer this option.
The third option is to do completely independent virtual learning. This option is coordinated through the district with a third-party provider.
Nielson said there has been interest among 10 to 15 percent of students in the river region schools to pursue this option, but the option faces limitations based on student ability to access the internet.
Nielson said the district is exploring options to expand internet access to remote areas of the county. This effort could possibly allow more students to access the district-provided internet system.
In total, between the second and third options, more than 90 percent of students in the river region schools are signaling a preference for home-based virtual learning.
While officials are still waiting on 1,200 students in the district to signal an intent and complete their registration, they expect the current registration trends to continue in each of the schools.
It is likely that the river region schools may have very limited in-school options.
In fact, it appears likely that in-school instruction will not take place in the river region schools, including the new Bluff Elementary School, which is scheduled to be ready for opening in mid-August.
It appears the fall sports season may not take place in the river region schools (including Whitehorse, Monument Valley, and Navajo Mountain high schools).
The fall sports season is proceeding in the mountain region schools (including Monticello and San Juan high schools).
Fall sports include traditional team sports such as football, soccer, and volleyball, along with more individualized sports such as cross country, golf, and tennis.