NEWMAN - Parents in the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District recently had the opportunity to share their thoughts on what safety precautions and educational needs should be priorities when a new school year opens.

With little more than a month and a half to go before the scheduled Aug. 11 start date of a new school year, district administrators are planning for three different scenarios that could materialize.

Those preparations, Superintendent Randy Fillpot said, include an acknowledgment that a significant number of students are expected to opt for an independent study program even if some form of classroom instruction resumes.

“Independent study will definitely be an option (for families). What we’re trying to lean toward is (a program) that would have a similar feel to home-schooling but using our curriculum,” Fillpot reported. “We are trying to create options for parents who do not feel like they want to physically have their kids at school.”

Fillpot said that the district is gathering information to get a more precise picture of how many families will want their students to be on independent study so it can plan accordingly.

He said information about the long-term independent study option can be found on the district website.

Parents surveyed also offered input on what safety priorities they believed were most important if students are allowed to physically return to school.

“The most prominent one was that all parents are very concerned about the cleanliness of the classrooms and schools. Sanitizing facilities on a regular basis was a concern, which is absolutely something that we are concerned about as well,” Fillpot commented.

Forty percent of the more than 550 respondents listed sanitation as the top priority should classrooms reopen.

Twenty percent listed regular hand-washing as the top priority, while 16 percent cited social distancing as their top priority.

Masks were another topic, with 11 percent of respondents saying use of mask is the most important safety step the district should take if classroom instruction resumes. While some respondents voiced support for requiring facial coverings a majority of those commenting on the subject opposed making masks mandatory.

Parents also indicated that they would like to see steps taken to prevent students from attending school when ill, and some suggested that schools conduct temperature checks.

Fillpot indicated that county health officials will be the ultimate authority on what safety measures will be required of schools.

“We will be requiring what county public health gives us as guidelines,” he commented. “We will probably not have any definitive answers on that until mid-July.”

Fillpot said the district is proceeding on the premise that one of three scenarios will play out.

The district’s hope is that the school year opens as scheduled with students attending every day, he said.

But if restrictions continue and schools are not allowed to reopen their facilities in August, the district must also be prepared to resume a distance learning format.

The third scenario is a hybrid which blends classroom and distance learning.

Regardless of what transpires and what safeguards are enacted, Fillpot said, it will not be business as usual when classes resume.

“It is definitely going to look different,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “Schools as a whole are going to look different from now on.”

Given that distance learning will almost certainly continue in some form, Fillpot noted, the district is working to streamline and improve its online instruction.

“I think we had quite a few parents who were happy with their student doing remote learning, but not all. We have a lot of work to do because (remote learning) will probably be a partial solution,” the superintendent explained. “We still have some work to do with the engagement of students, in terms of how they are being socially-emotionally engaged by teachers. Learning is truly social-emotional. The content is nothing without that.”

The district is also continuing to work on logistical plans, Fillpot said, such as how to meet distancing requirements during meal service and looking at what items can be removed from classrooms to more effectively clean and sanitize.

Administrators will meet with First Student in early July to go over transportation plans, Fillpot added.