North students walk through the temperature scanners on their way to class. (Katharine Wilson)
North students walk through the temperature scanners on their way to class.

Katharine Wilson

A five day school week and what this means for the 2021-22 school year

May 18, 2021

On May 3 Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) middle and high school campuses welcomed back students for five days a week of in-person learning. Previously these students had distance learning for over a year and then began attending twice a week in-person beginning on April 1. Elementary students went back to five days of in-person instruction on April 21. With schools closing last year in March, it had been over a year since RUSD campuses had had students learning in person, and now the entirety of in-person students are on campus together. 

Although students have recently returned to school, no one is quite sure what next school year is going to look like. The amount of students on campus at the moment is less than what it used to be because of students who are in virtual and homeschool programs and students who did not feel safe returning to campus. 

As COVID cases continue to go down and counties move into the next tiers, that means the amount of students and amount of days they can come on campus continue to increase. In Riverside County there are currently 3.4 COVID-19 cases per every 100,000 residents which is a sharp decrease from the winter surge. The county is reporting that there have been 1,750,221 vaccine doses administered.  RUSD is currently determining the interest of students with having Pfizer vaccination opportunities provided by the district. Next year it is anticipated that around 2,000 students will be enrolled in North’s in-person program, while other students remain in virtual or homeschool programs.

Right now in person learning looks very different because of COVID safety measures and restrictions that are in place to keep everyone safe. And when students go back next year it is possible that some COVID measures such as masks and social distancing will continue to be kept in place to ensure everyone stays safe while on campus.  Future case levels will determine when all COVID precautions, such as following the arrows and plexiglass shields around desks, can be taken away. 

“I am pleased to see the vast majority are wearing their masks and following the general guidelines. Our students have been outstanding in this transition phase…It is great to have students back in person- and although it is shorter than we would like, it is a vast improvement over connecting online every day,” said vice principal Steven Bernard. 

 At the moment, middle and high schools are in phase 4 and it is not known for sure but anticipated that next school year will look more like a normal year since they are now going back five days a week. During phase 4, students go to school five days a week and continue to socially distance from each other and wear masks based on COVID-19 case levels and restrictions necessary. 

For the time being no one knows whether or not next school year will continue in our current phase, with restrictions still in place and only going half of the school day, or if it will look more normal with the old schedule and the only requirements being masks. At the moment secondary schools are in a block schedule so that everyone isn’t moving around school as much. It is not certain whether or not this type of schedule will continue into the next school year or not. It depends once again on the case levels whether or not schools can return to a normal schedule, without the need to minimize the amount of students moving around campus on a daily basis.  Most likely the school will not return to distance learning again unless COVID-19 surges unexpectedly. The final phase of returning to school is phase 5, in which everyone returns to campus 5 days a week with no restrictions. Although no one is certain when schools can move into phase 5, many are hopeful that sometime next school year we can move into that phase as schools in other states have already started to move in that direction. 

“I am excited to have students back on campus and it is good to finally be able to connect and see my students in personI have hope that next year will in many ways look like a normal year. I think if we keep heading the direction we are then we will start full back to school, and with some adjustments I am sure we will have a functional year in the classroom,” said English teacher Maya Ennis-Shields.

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A five day school week and what this means for the 2021-22 school year