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For the past few weeks, Holtville High School has been providing supplemental instruction for dozens of students who make up around nine different cohorts who have returned to campus along with 30 percent of the school’s faculty. | JULIO MORALES PHOTO

Holtville High Welcomes Student Cohorts Back to Campus

HOLTVILLE — Dozens of Holtville High School students have returned to campus over the past few weeks to receive supplemental in-person instruction in a variety of classes.

The participating students are grouped into small cohorts of no more than 10 students with the overall number of students on campus fluctuating between 45 to 60 during the week.

Holtville High’s cohort model of instruction is aligned with current guidelines for schools operating within counties that are in the Purple Tier of the state’s recovery roadmap, Principal Anthony Arevalo said.

While those guidelines prohibit campuses from offering direct primary in-person instruction while remaining in the Purple Tier, it does allow the high school to provide supplemental in-person instruction, Arevalo said on Tuesday, March 2.

Currently, the high school has a total of nine cohorts on campus. Those cohorts include three for special education, and one each for MESA/robotics, athletic training, agricultural mechanics, at-risk seniors, weight training, and physical education, Arevalo said.

A drumline cohort that is in the planning stages also will likely be altered to become a band cohort.

“We’re really targeting our hands-on courses,” Arevalo said. “The distance learning only goes so far.”

The effort has enlisted 30 teachers as well, which accounts for about 30 percent of the high school’s faculty, he said.

The establishment of the in-person cohorts is largely owed to faculty who have advised school administrators of their desire and availability to teach onsite, Arevalo said.

Although finding teachers willing to return to campus has not been a problem, creating enough space to safely accommodate the participating students has been more of a challenge.

“While current guidelines state that students must be seated six feet apart from each other, we found early on that we had to make space in classrooms by moving furniture out of the classroom to accommodate for the six-foot spacing guidelines between students,” Arevalo said. 

Before being allowed to enroll in a cohort, school officials speak with the parents of students to explain the campus’ guidelines and answer any of the parent’s questions. 

Additionally, prior to being allowed onto campus, students who are participating in the cohorts are screened daily for any COVID-related symptoms.

Holtville Unified School District nurse Mykell Johnston-Lofton has also been instrumental in ensuring the safety of the participating students and staff, Arevalo said.

Other potential cohorts that the campus is considering include automotive technology, and plant and soil sciences.

“We are always excited to see our students on campus and we look forward to continuing to expand our cohorts,” he said. 

Besides the high school’s current cohorts, the Holtville Unified School District is also in the process of determining a date when it may reopen its elementary schools. The action is possible now that the county reached the adjusted case rate of fewer than 25 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents.

“We are still gathering information to make an informed decision on a reopening date,” HUSD Assistant Superintendent John-Paul Wells stated in an email Tuesday, March 2.

As of Tuesday, the county’s case rate stood at 7.6 per 100,000, the county Public Health Department’s website stated.

Nor is Holtville High alone in allowing cohorts to receive in-person instruction on local campuses. Brawley Union High School is also hosting small cohorts for some of its special education students, as well as those enrolled in career technical education and Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program courses, according to the Brawley Union High School District’s March 2021 newsletter.

Similarly, the Central Union High School District has established learning pods at Central Union and Southwest high schools for students in need of support in addition to their primary instruction, the district previously reported.

In addition, the district plans to start other hands-on activities for classes that include career technical education (CTE), visual and performing arts, science, leadership, and others, said Superintendent Ward Andrus in an email on Wednesday, March. 3.

Currently, the district is in the final stages of updating its agreement with the teachers’ association to permit the cohorts to happen.

“There is not set date, but we eagerly look forward to seeing students in classrooms for these activities in the near future,” Andrus said.

Currently, no such supplemental instructional cohorts have been established within the Calexico Unified School District, although it has brought back cohorts related to practice for its cross country, swimming, tennis, and football teams. A similar cohort is expected to start for soccer next week, said Alejandra Limon, CUSD public information officer.