Students to be welcomed back on campus next week

Katelyn Newton, Mirada Staff

Time to dust off backpacks, wake up early to get ready and walk the halls once again. Students will be allowed back on campus March 22 for the first week of hybrid instruction, as Sacramento County enters the long-desired red tier which allows indoor activities at low capacity.

Sacramento joins nine other counties in entering the “substantial” red tier, as the county case rate reaches 8.1 per 100,000 citizens and the positivity rate is 3.2 percent. Approximately 88 percent of California counties are currently in the red tier.

The hybrid model will include three cohorts of students, in order to allow for more diligent social distancing and other precautions. The new schedule can be found on the Rio Americano website here.

Cohorts A and B will both be on campus two days a week in the morning and online for distance learning two days a week in the afternoon. Cohort A, containing 590 students, will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays, while Cohort B, containing 600 students, will be in person Thursdays and Fridays.

Cohort C, with the remaining 755 students of Rio, will remain in distance learning full time and have afternoon Zoom classes four days a week, accompanied by cohort A or B in Zoom on their respective days. Wednesday classes will no longer occur and custodians will perform a routine deep cleaning while students are off campus doing asynchronous work.

For students in cohorts A and B, the return to campus is a long awaited opportunity to interact with peers and teachers in person.

“I’m looking forward to being able to actually hear my teachers in person,” said sophomore Diego Castillo. “I’m hoping it will be a little easier.”

For freshmen, next week will mark the first time on campus as a high schooler. Staff hosted an in-person freshman orientation the morning of March 17 to welcome incoming students, advise them of safety protocol and show them around campus.

“The freshman orientation was really helpful and made me feel more comfortable with the campus,” freshman Josie Parod said. “I am very excited to be coming back.”

Ginter also shared that though the return to school is an exciting step forward, it will not be like a normal school day filled with socializing and close contact. Passing period will be five minutes, and students will have to follow arrows in the hallways, directing students around the campus in a counterclockwise path.

“Once people get here, they need to be moving onto campus and getting to their classes,” Ginter said. “I don’t know what people are expecting, but it’s not going to be a normal school situation. There’s not going to be hanging out at lunchtime or groups in the parking lot in the morning.”

Students will be required to wear masks properly, over their nose and under their chin. If a student is not abiding by the health guidelines, and they must be asked to put their mask on three times, they will be sent to Cohort C. 

The administration hopes the shortened school day, starting at 8:05 a.m. and ending at 10:45 a.m., and brief passing periods will help discourage large groups of kids congregating on campus. Such strict rules are important to help keep peers and staff safe, and keep the school open, but Superintendent of San Juan Kent Kern acknowledges the importance of interacting with one another, too.

“The social aspect of it is important for everybody,” Kern said. “I’m anxious to get kids back in school.”

With the excitement of returning to school also comes nerves. Some are concerned about the shortened class time, and others taking tests in person.

“I think it’s going to be good but I’m concerned the only days we’re going back will be used for tests,” sophomore Meredith Montgomery said.

Staff will also have to rework their curriculum yet again to accommodate the limited synchronous instruction and ensure students are learning everything they need to do well on AP tests or proceed to the next level of a particular course, but teachers are up for the challenge. 

“I’m tired of being on screens,” said English teacher Adam Bearson. “I’m excited to have face to face connection with people, sitting in a room and sharing the moment.”