Sunday schools

Oak Park predicts gradual return of K-6 as number of COVID-19 cases drops

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The Oak Park Unified School District prepares to begin a gradual return to campus for elementary students as the number of COVID-19 cases declines in Ventura County.

Ventura County’s adjusted case rate – that is, the seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population adjusted for testing by a county – reached 26.2 in the week of this year. ending Feb. 6, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health Tuesday.

This metric, measured by the state, dictates when schools can reopen.

Once the adjusted case rate drops below 25 cases per day and stays there for five consecutive days in a county, schools offering Kindergarten to Grade 6 can open. They must also have a COVID-19 safety plan approved by the local health officer and the state’s Safe Schools for All team before they open.

Although other districts have reopened in one form or another, Oak Park Unified is the first public school district in Ventura County to file its reopening plan since the option was discontinued in mid-December.

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While this does not affect schools that have already reopened, it is good news for elementary schools that have been unable to reopen due to the high number of COVID-19 cases across the county.

Oak Park Unified’s plan to reopen elementary schools, including mentioning this information, was presented at the district school board meeting on Tuesday.

In an email Thursday, Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas said the case rate has been below 25 for two days so far.

If the trend continues through Sunday, schools that submit or have submitted their COVID-19 safety plan will be able to open as early as next week, he said.

The superintendent expresses his frustration

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Tony Knight explained how difficult it is for superintendents and administrators to get accurate information from county and state public health officials, the Department of California Education and Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.

When the pandemic is over, he hopes that “forensic analyzes” will be done on how this kind of situation might be handled in the future. Currently, he said the situation is very poorly handled.

Knight explained that the news arrives at different times – sometimes late at night, on a holiday weekend, from the press, or just last minute without warning.

“And then we are forced to react at the same time that the public understands,” he said. “… and it’s extremely difficult to make decisions and move forward with that kind of environment.

“We continue to think that this is going to change or that it will stop, and in fact, it is only getting worse,” Knight continued.

He wondered why it took so long for officials to share that the rate of COVID-19 cases had dropped so significantly, from 41.1, which was reported last week, to 26.2. He said this is information that he and district officials look to on a daily basis.

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The lag is actually built into how the rate of COVID-19 cases is measured. To account for delays in counties in getting test results, the state takes into account a seven-day delay.

He also spoke of an apparent lack of concern about the immunization of teachers and staff in California public schools.

Educators, who are part of Phase 1B in Priority Groups for Vaccines, are not yet eligible to register for an appointment in Ventura County.

“We hope the state will come up with a solution regarding staff vaccination when this is one of the CDC’s recommendations – not a requirement – but a very strong recommendation that school staff be vaccinated before resuming school work. ‘in-person learning,’ Knight said. noted.

What will the return to school look like?

Despite the frustrations, Knight said it was great news that the number of COVID-19 cases is declining.

In Oak Park, the five-day waiting period before schools open will include an extra day for teachers.

In a revised October agreement between the district and the teachers’ union, it was negotiated that elementary-level teachers would get three days of preparation before the December winter break. This was when the district planned to reopen for blended learning in January.

However, as the number of cases increased, the likelihood of a reopening in January decreased. Elementary school teachers decided to take two of the three days of preparation anyway, according to Ragini Aggarwal, executive assistant to the principal of Oak Park Unified.

Related: Elementary schools to reopen as Ventura County’s COVID-19 case rate improves

The remaining preparation day is now attached to the waiting period.

In a February 14 message to the OPUSD community, Knight said the district submitted the plan on February 1.

“It has been approved by the county and is in Sacramento awaiting approval,” he said. “The state legislature and governor have yet to agree on how to deal with them, how to fund the proposed grants, and what the new criteria will be for in-person learning.”

The plan details how the reopening works. After the six-day period is over, the district may plan to take students from Discovery Kindergarten to Grade 2 first, followed by Grade 3 the following week, and Grades 4 and 5 the following week.

At first, weekly COVID-19 tests may be involved for those who return.

The plan says that if the case rate is between 14 and 25, students and staff will be tested for the virus every week. Originally, this was a stipulation of the proposed grant in a plan by Gov. Gavin Newsom, but Knight said the district was unsure if this was still the case.

According to a California Department of Public Health frequently asked questions about schools page, the current language of the state grant program requires schools and school districts to adhere to testing guidelines in order to receive funding, although it is “subject to final adoption by the state legislature.”

Knight said students would undergo a polymerase chain reaction test, better known as PCR, before returning home on their first day of arrival on campus per week. They will have to take the test at home and return it to school the next day. From there, the tests will be sent to a lab for results within 24 hours.

The district plans to bring the students back into an ‘AABB’ cohort model, meaning students in Cohort A will see each other and have face-to-face classes on Monday and Tuesday, and have distance learning for the three days. remaining. Students in Cohort B will attend classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

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On its website, the district explains that the model “allows for five days of” incubation time “during which symptoms could appear before each cohort returns to school, mitigating the potential spread of the virus due to the planning “en bloc” and will facilitate contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. “

The district will use federal funds to pay for the initial tests.

“It’s this level of testing, in my opinion, and all the other security protocols we’ve spent a lot of time putting in place that will make schools reasonably safe when we’re down to 25-14 cases per 100,000,” Knight mentioned.

He said the district is in the right place right now to open, as opposed to falling when COVID-19 cases were rising rapidly.

Technological improvements for teachers

“With the recent announcement of the return to school, elementary school teachers have very different feelings,” said Ericka Jauchen, teacher on special assignment for elementary school technology.

Despite the mixed reaction, Jauchen said the tech department wanted to alleviate concerns about any tech issues.

Teachers can schedule 30-minute sessions to get help organizing their classes for school. Classrooms will be equipped with devices including an Apple desktop computer, laptop, document camera and interactive whiteboard to facilitate in-person and distance education.

In addition, each elementary school site will have a district technician should something go wrong during the first three weeks of reopening.

Shivani Patel covers education for The Star as a member of the Report for America corps. Contact her at [email protected] or 805-603-6573. She is also on Twitter at @shivaaanip.