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Elementary schools set to open Nov. 2

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Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter
Elementary students in Ojai Unified School District will return to their classrooms Nov. 2; and middle- and high school students  will continue with distance learning through the end of the first semester in January.
OUSD Superintendent Tiffany Morse presented this plan to the school board at a special meeting Oct. 7, following Ventura County’s move to the California COVID-19 improved red tier.
“At the high school, it was really important to maintain continuity for our teachers,” Morse said, noting that returning to campus mid-semester with a hybrid model would be an adjustment for families and teachers.
“Because we’re on the block schedule at both Matilija and Nordhoff, we’re concerned about losing instructional time in the middle of the semester, particularly at the high school. So that was a big factor in looking at that,” she said.
At the elementary school level, Morse said schools will move to the previously planned hybrid model with the “AB” schedule on Nov. 2, meaning different groups of students will attend classes in person on alternating days of the week. 
The schools are technically allowed to move to in-person classes on Oct. 21, assuming Ventura County remains in the red tier, but there are several issues for the district to sort through first.
Morse said: “It’s just going to take us that long to make sure that we can return safely and have all of our protocols in place, make sure that students are assigned correctly, work with the teachers, work with the technology, all of those things that we need to do to confidently return. So, looking at Nov. 2, which is in line with when we originally had a plan, we said that we would go on a month-by-month basis, and that we would shoot for Oct. 1. So now we’re at Nov. 2 and that’s maintaining that month-by-month basis that we had originally talked about.”

 

Chaparral High School and Summit School students have returned to campus already in a modified form with small pods of students, she said, adding that the district is still working with A Place To Grow Preschool staff on what its schedule will be. 
Morse said: “Chaparral came back, I believe, two weeks ago, potentially, in accordance with the cohort model they were able to do that. And Rock Tree Sky (Summit), I think, for around the same amount of time and they also have a ‘cohorted’ model. So they were in line with the regulations and the sizes and all that kind of stuff.”
Another reason why secondary school students are not returning yet is because the number of students who would have to be quarantined if one student was confirmed even to be exposed to someone with COVID-19 would be large.
Morse said: “We could be looking at quarantining 96 students until they either get a test result … and six teachers. The six teachers becomes problematic because then … we can’t have their kids on campus the next day because we don’t have enough substitutes. ... So at this point, given where we are, it doesn’t make sense for us to try and do this. We can’t meet these requirements and we can’t quarantine this many students.”
In the interim, certain secondary students have been brought back in small groups, including those in special education, English learners, students who are not successful in distance learning, athletes and some clubs. 
The district is exploring how to safely bring back other groups for optional in-person experiences, including for seniors, tutoring and lab classes.
Some preparations for the elementary students’ return to campus next month include: weekly return-to-campus meetings, ensuring adequate personal protective equipment, removing items from classrooms that can’t be cleaned daily, and revisiting the elementary schedule to ensure time for serving both on-campus students and those who remain in distance learning.
Morse said: “We will start town hall meetings again once we have more information about the schedule, specific information, because that’s what families will want. So we’re hoping to have those the week of Oct. 19 when we have elementary schedule, AB model, all of that a little bit closer to being complete. Then we will be working on a method for families to notify us if they’re going to remain on distance learning.”
To view Morse’s complete presentation to the board Oct. 7, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtqYw3JLdjc&feature=youtu.be.

 

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