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Next up for COVID-19 vaccines: Teachers, child care providers, food and ag workers, first responders,

 2 22 21 SECTORNew groups in Ventura County are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, as supplies allow. They are teachers and child care providers, first responders, and food and agricultural workers, who fall under the county's Phase 1B tier of vaccine eligibility.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors will be discussing this during its COVID-19 update on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 8:30 a.m. The meeting can be watched by clicking https://www.ventura.org/board-of-supervisors/agendas-documents-and-broadcasts/ or visiting @CountyofVentura Facebook.

Ventura County has reached a COVID-19 case rate that allows all elementary schools in the county to resume in-person instruction, if they choose to do so and have taken required safety measures. This is at the same time the county of Ventura announced it will start vaccinating educators. "These two developments are encouraging steps in the effort to safely bring more students and teachers back to the classroom," said Cesar Morales, deputy superintendent for the Ventura County Office of Education.

School reopening

According to current state guidelines, elementary schools may reopen when a county's adjusted COVID-19 case rate falls below 25 per 100,000 residents and stays there for five consecutive days. In Ventura County, that milestone was reached on Sunday, Feb. 21. That means Ventura County schools that had not previously reopened now have the option of bringing students back to class.

Some school districts may determine it's still too soon to reopen their elementary schools, particularly if they serve parts of Ventura County where the case rate remains above 25 per 100,000. "There are several ZIP codes, particularly in Santa Paula, Fillmore and the Oxnard Plain, where case rates are still worryingly high," Morales said. "School districts in those areas will need to decide when it's in the best interest of their particular communities to reopen their classrooms."

Before they can reopen, schools must wait for seven days after their COVID-19 Safety Plans have been approved by Ventura County Public Health and the State Safe Schools for All team.

Ojai Unified School District had not yet submitted its COVID-19 Safety Plans to the county as of Feb. 23, according to school officials. However, it does have safety plans for the school district that have been submitted to the state.

Schools that do reopen will use hybrid schedules since social distancing requirements prevent them from bringing all students back at the same time. Schools will continue to offer distance learning as an option for families who prefer it. Under current state guidelines, middle and high schools that have not previously reopened will have to wait until Ventura County returns to the less-restrictive red tier on the state's coronavirus classification scale.

Nordhoff High School and Matilija Middle School opened in small cohorts of 14 or fewer students, under the state cohort guidance starting Feb. 22.

Ojai Unified School District elementary schools have been allowed to open for hybrid in-person instruction because they were opened the week of Nov. 2, when the county was in the second-to-worst health tier, which was red.

Educator vaccinations

The announcement that teachers are eligible for vaccines follows a decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom to set aside 10% of the state's vaccines for school employees. Because of continued issues with vaccine supply, the number of vaccines initially available to school employees is expected to be limited.

Vaccinations are given by appointment only and eligible people can register at www.venturacountyrecovers.org/vaccine-information.