Tracy Area Public Schools pivoting to distance learning

By Per Peterson

With 15% of students and staff gone from school because of COVID-19-related reasons, Tracy Area Public Schools announced Tuesday it will pivot to distance learning, starting Monday, Nov. 30, and will remain as such until at least Friday, Dec. 11. Students will return to school on Monday, Dec. 14.

The decision was shared with parents Tuesday; students were to receive their computers and school supplies that day to bring home with them, as Wednesday was a teacher planning day. Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson said while there have been some some cases at the public schools, contact tracing showed there wasn’t any spread of COVID-19 in the school buildings themselves.

“We were very optimistic that we could continue to move forward, but with the numbers getting so high in Lyon County and with some of the people testing positive being asymptomatic, we felt we had to make this decision,” Anderson said. “The other thing was staffing — we’ve had more and more teachers out. This was obviously in the back of our minds the whole time we were very hopeful, but it just got to a point where we wanted to err on the side of caution. We really want to send the message to the kids that they will be back.”

The decision was made Tuesday partly because this is a short week with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. Anderson favors making decisions that affect students earlier in the week, and added that COVID-19 numbers shot up over the weekend.

“We just started to see that rise, so we wanted to get a handle on it early,” he said. 

Anderson said the decision to transition to distance learning was not an easy one to make. He knows the burden it can put on parents, and laments having to have the students learn remotely like they did in the spring.

“The learning is just not as good,” he said. “When kids are home learning, they’re just not getting the same education as they are when in their classroom with their peers and their teachers. And the social and emotional aspect is really big for me — I want to make sure our kids are around other kids, so we’re really gonna do our best to bring them back on the 14th.”

TAPS was one of few districts in the area that was conducting in-person learning for all students in grades Pre-K through grade 12. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the schools require everyone to wear masks and social distance as much as possible. The district’s custodial staff cleans everything — including at the Veterans Memorial Center where the eighth-graders go to school — on a daily basis, and students and teachers are quarantining when they are close contacts, have symptoms, or have contracted COVID-19. Anderson gave credit to the staff, as well as the school’s nurse, Ashley Swan.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.