School reopening update: Foothill Tech’s small group program


Kami Kada

Foothill Dragons prepare to see their school again as small pods begin to open.

Caroline Hubner, Reporter

Disclaimer: This article was written when Ventura County was in the Red tier for COVID-19 infection rates. It has now reentered the purple tier, with the highest percentages of cases and greatest restrictions. Full implemenatation of small groups may resume when Ventura County moves to a level less restrictive tier. 

As Ventura County eases up on restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-awaited time for Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) schools to reopen is in sight. Although the contingent launch date for a hybrid schedule is not until Jan. 30, 2021, Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) has began to allow small groups of students to return to campus, as of Nov. 13. 

The goal is that by allowing students to return to campus for enrichment in small groups they would be able to regain a sense of normalcy and human connection that has been lacking in previous months. In addition, it could make up for some of the loss of learning in an asynchronous schedule. Absolutely no core instruction would happen during this time and students that are struggling would be encouraged to use the opportunity to engage in a safe, productive environment. 

The program is 100% optional and completely teacher run. Teachers must volunteer their time and classroom, and students must also volunteer to sign up and abide by all regulations.

The rules include the basic guidelines for social distancing, masks and sanitation to keep COVID-19 from spreading among students and faculty. A checklist was created by Ventura Unified staff that all participants must fully adhere to if they wish to continue with the program. 

Maintaining a six foot distance between all persons has been deemed non-negotiable and still applies to those who live in the same household. Each student’s attendance will also be recorded if needed for government contact tracing. 

All students who arrive on campus will be subject to temperature/COVID-19 symptom checks and will be sent home if either displays unwanted results. Also, masks or face coverings that meet CDC approval will be required at all times, so food and beverage consumption will be prohibited in close proximity to any persons. 

Each teacher will have their own methods for sterilization of their classrooms, but supplies such as spray bottles, disinfectants and hand sanitizer will always be available. Every student touched surface will be thoroughly cleaned before and after use to prevent cross-contamination. 

While no official announcement has been made containing the details of teachers, dates, times, sign up sheets, etc., several Foothill Tech teachers have shown interest in the program including Mr. Amacher, Ms. Eulau, Ms. Anderson, Mr. Baker, Mr. Li, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Duffy, Ms. Lindsey, Ms. Eggertsen and Ms. Carr. 

Some of the programs with aspirations to provide in-person enrichment are The Bioscience Academy, DTech, the education pathway, leadership, special education and computer science.

Depending on the size of each teachers’ classroom, the amount of students could be anywhere from 15-20. Foothill Tech principal Russell Gibbs explained that “some rooms may be able to accommodate more based upon its size, but 16 seems to be the safe number for our room sizes.” To maintain social distancing, students would have to space out inside classrooms, pods, and outside areas as well as follow the rules about entering one way and exiting another. 

The one major aspect of the small group program that has raised many questions is how will students receive priority for attendance and how will they apply or sign-up. According to Gibbs, “we have prioritized the small groups by GPA. We are focusing on connecting with the most struggling students based on their quarter 1 GPA.” 

Online formats such as Google forms and Google sheets could be a possible option for sign ups, and because the program is supposed to act as extra enrichment most likely priority will go to those in need of academic intervention.

What do you think?