Intermediate and high school students will return to Half Moon Bay campuses after the Cabrillo Unified School District unanimously approved reopening plans for grades six through 12 on Monday night.

The first back will be sixth graders on April 5, following a morning and afternoon cohort schedule with classes four days a week for each student. Each week, a new grade will come back to Cunha Intermediate School’s campus. Principal James Barnes said the newest iteration of the plan was designed to maximize in-person learning hours after many Cunha students have struggled with remote learning and isolation.

“Many students experienced mental health issues (during the pandemic),” Barnes said. “Cunha staff believes students need to be back in person as much as possible.”

The first Half Moon Bay High School seniors and juniors will come back on April 12 for in-person classes two days a week, followed by freshmen and sophomores the following week. Principal John Nazar said he will be relying on older students to be role models for following safety protocols on campus and helping younger students adjust to campus culture.

Each of the plans follows the county’s “four pillars” of safety, requiring social distancing, masks, regular sanitation and limitations on visitors. Even after state and federal health leaders have said three feet of distancing between desks and students is now sufficient, district leaders said all classrooms will be set up to allow for six feet of distancing.

Every student will be required to answer a health screening questionnaire at the beginning of each school day. CUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said the district has signed a contract with a COVID-19 testing company to regularly test athletes with the hope of expanding to all students in the future.

The plan follows on the heels of an elementary school reopening plan that was approved by the board last week. Area elementary schools are expected to welcome transitional kindergarten through first grade students back on April 5 as well.

Each of the campuses has already been operating pods, allowing some students to attend their remote classes from supervised classrooms. At the high school, sports have started back up, in addition to some clubs. Nazar said those in-person activities will continue, and pods could serve as a landing place for students after their live classes are over.

“The least change in certain areas is the best,” Nazar said.

CUSD Assistant Superintendent Leticia Bhatia said some Cunha families are concerned about maintaining support for students who choose to continue remote learning even after reopening of campuses. At Half Moon Bay High School, Nazar said teachers will livestream their classes to any remote learners and will offer office hours during asynchronous learning.

But at Cunha, Barnes said that with a full schedule of live classes four days a week, teachers won’t be able to teach remote and in-person cohorts at the same time.

“It really would put an enormous burden on our teachers who have committed to teaching all day long,” Barnes said. “It's just not a feasible ask and they feel strongly their efforts should be dedicated to teaching in person.”

Those students who wish to remain remote will instead be assigned a credentialed remote learning coordinator or a teacher who has also chosen to remain remote.

High school Assistant Principal Deanna Tower said that so far, 31 percent of students have said they will continue remote learning, while just around 40 Cunha students are expected to stay remote, according to Cunha Assistant Principal Ben Bartel. Students in any grade will be allowed to transition back to remote learning or to in-person instruction once they feel it’s time.

“We will have them back whenever they’re ready,” Barnes said.

Each of the elementary, intermediate and high school reopening plans is available in English and Spanish at www.cabrillo.k12.ca.us.

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