Education · Fresno

Fresno Unified to fully reopen in the fall with expanded school day, services

Students in Fresno Unified School District will be back in the classroom on a full-time basis in the fall, the district announced Friday.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson announced Friday that the district will return to a five-day a week, full-time schedule for the 2021-2022 school year, putting the days of distance learning in the rear view mirror. 

“In March of 2020 we were kind of in the infancy of the pandemic, as you recall, and we really had no clue what the upcoming year would look like,” Nelson said. “Today I am very pleased to say that we are in a very different place as we look toward the ‘21-’22 school year.” 

In what Nelson called the district’s “pandemic recovery plan,” school will start on Aug. 12, 2021, and run to June 10, 2022. 

The Board of Trustees is expected to approve the new schedule at its June 16 meeting. 

Teachers will return to the classroom two days earlier for professional development days, giving them extra time to prepare for their classes. 

For the fall semester, the school day will run an additional 30 minutes longer than usual, which will add about a week of instruction time, Nelson said. 

The school district will also provide more support for literacy and mathematics, expand high school credit recovery options and bring on additional support for English learners in middle and high schools. 

The district is also using its $770 million in one-time revenue from federal stimulus funds to hire additional staff for three years: 

  • One additional teacher to every elementary school
  • One additional teacher for 9th grade English at every high school
  • Every middle school and high school will have a clinical social worker and a school psychologist
  • All schools will have a health professional on site every day 

“We really don’t know the totality of the impact, so we’re just planning as though kids are going to need help and staffing accordingly,” Nelson said. 

Nelson said the district expects to lose staff over the following three years due to natural attrition, and if the results are positive from having the additional staff on hand, the district will budget accordingly in the future. 

Health safety precautions have not yet been decided for the new school year because the district is awaiting further guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 15 when he axes the color-tiered COVID-19 reopening blueprint and allows the state’s economy to fully reopen. 

“We are awaiting the Governor’s announcement next month where he is expected to reduce state restrictions, and we believe those changes will include new and reduced guidelines for schools that we will then communicate to the community,” Nelson said. 

If any families are uncomfortable sending their children back for in-person instruction, they can enroll their children in Fresno Unified’s eLearn Academy to continue distance learning. 

“Our kids have been the rock stars in this process. We’ve asked a lot of them, families as well. We acknowledge we blurred the line between the schoolhouse and the home in significant ways over the last 14 months,” Nelson said. 

“For every one of those parents who had those moments where you thought, ‘My goodness I can’t do this – I’m not a teacher,’ I just offer my sincere and appreciative thanks for your willingness to strive to do what you think was in the best interest of your kids. We appreciate your efforts in that regard.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.