Marking the one-year anniversary of Walnut Valley Unified School District’s closure on March 16, Superintendent Robert P. Taylor announced via YouTube livestream that the majority of students at Diamond Bar High School will continue with distance learning for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year.
The decision was made in an effort to maintain academic consistency heading into AP testing and final exams. However, those students who do wish to attend school on campus will be able to do so through Academic Cohorts, a new support program offering students additional guidance. In addition, it was announced that some form of in-person graduation ceremonies will be held on May 27.
“We’ve worked to provide opportunities for in-person instruction during the primary academic program from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day for academically at-risk students,” WVUSD Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Matt Witmer said.
Those opting to return to campus for extra guidance would continue to attend classes virtually, but have the opportunity to work in-person with credentialed educators. Academic Cohorts would move in lockstep with the current schedule, with students cycling between classrooms specialized for each subject category, such as a Math or Humanities classroom.
Additionally, beginning April 19, in-person tutorial hours will be hosted four days a week. Taylor and DBHS principal Reuben Jones announced that the designated hours will be utilized for on-campus academic support, science labs and other classroom activities. DBHS teachers will return to the classroom on April 12, even as they continue to teach via Zoom or Google Meet.
“All interested students may attend in-person with their teachers and their peers during student support tutorial time in the afternoon,” Taylor said. ”Our administration will work collaboratively with counselors and teachers and support staff to build a program between the hours of 1:10 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. that will address academic needs and opportunities for our kids.”
The district is also implementing technology upgrades on campus in preparation for the influx of in-person student demand. Changes include a new wireless access point in every classroom with expanded bandwidth, headsets for student use and thousands of additional Chromebooks.
Furthermore, DBHS is working on ways for students to socialize safely in-person while on campus.
“We understand the importance of social-emotional learning and for all students to have the opportunity to see their teachers in the classroom,” Jones said.
Currently, extracurricular engagements that will be held at school during tutorial time include class activities and club meetings. In addition, one day each week will be reserved exclusively for the Class of 2021 to come on campus and participate in events such as senior lunch and class photos.
“We will be able to have an in-person graduation ceremony on May 27, 2021, for our Class of 2021 seniors, knowing that this is something that the L.A. County Health Department has authorized and allowed because of the social distancing that we can deliver for our students,” Jones said.
All individuals on campus will be required to wear a mask and complete a Health Screening questionnaire every day, but COVID-19 testing and temperature checks will not be mandatory. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the district will adhere to Public Health guidelines and pursue contact tracing.
“I would say our health and safety protocols you’re going to find reach the highest standard that there is out there,” Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Diane Perez said. “We had an opportunity to have all of our sites reviewed by the Department of Public Health and we passed with flying colors.”
Other safety measures include spreading desks out, increasing hand sanitizing stations, upgrading air filters, closing drinking fountains and increasing the frequency of deep cleaning at all premises. Additionally, all WVUSD staff have also been offered the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m really proud of our district’s ability to provide opportunities for [vaccination] appointments for all of our employees if they chose to do so with our local community partners,” Taylor said. “We even had our own clinic with a local pharmacy that provided vaccines just for Walnut Valley employees.”