When William S. Hart Union High School District officials adopted a 100% distance learning model for the beginning of the fall 2020-21 school year in July, the order came with a caveat — local school officials would revisit the blended-learning discussion five weeks into the semester.
The five-week mark was a target date to once again discuss the possibility of moving toward the next phase of returning to school, which would have cohorts of students visiting campus on alternating days and working from home on the days they’re not receiving in-person instruction.
The five-week mark coincides with the first progress reporting period Sept. 11, and was designed, according to Superintendent Mike Kuhlman, to allow for professional development for teachers, a phased movement to the blended learning model and for the district to communicate new safety procedures.
Since then, the state announced new information that in order for a school district to be able to reopen, their respective county would need to not be on the governor’s COVID-19 watch list. Counties, including Los Angeles, are placed on the list when they show negative trends in regard to COVID-19.
Once their county is taken off the governor’s list, and has stayed off the list for 14 days straight, the districts can then apply to reopen.
Next week marks the three-week mark from the beginning of the Hart district’s school year, meaning that at that point the county would need to be off the watch list, or the schools will not be opening on the district’s five-week checkpoint.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new color-coded grading system that will let residents know where their county is in terms of reopening, the scale of which is judged on a four-tier system with yellow being the “minimal” county risk level and purple being the worst, “widespread” county risk level.
Los Angeles County, therefore, along with 37 other counties, falls into the purple classification, and will need to wait until it’s in the red tier, or “substantial” county risk level, and be there for two weeks, before schools may reopening.
A county marked as “purple” means there are more than seven daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals, or a test rate of more than 8% of tests being positive. In order to be downgraded to the level at which schools are able to reopen, there needs to be only 4-7 new cases per 100,000 people and 5-8% test positivity rate.
Los Angeles County had 13.1 new positive cases per 100,000 and a 5% test positivity rate. Despite L.A. County’s test positivity measure falling into a lower tier, Newsom’s system states even if the county’s case rate and test positivity measure fall into two different tiers, the county will be assigned the more restrictive tier.
L.A. would likely have to halve its daily case rate per 100,000 residents by next week in order to allow the Hart district to reopen schools for in-person instruction immediately after Sept. 11, according to the parameters established by the new system.
However, counties, in order to downgrade, will also need to wait 21 days in order to shift colors, and the state’s tier system becomes effective Aug. 31. TK-6 schools in purple-tier counties cannot reopen for in-person instruction without getting a waiver from their county health department.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said this week that it would not be allowing for waivers until further notice.
“During Wednesday’s meeting we will be discussing where we are now with school opening and what we can do if and when,” said Hart district board President Linda Storli.
The four elementary school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley did not adopt a timeline like the Hart district had, instead adopting language that said their distance learning models would be in effect until further notice and would wait on the green light from the county.
The Hart district governing board meeting is set to virtually begin on Wednesday at 7 p.m. For more information on how to view the meeting live, visit https://williamshart.agendaonline.net/public/.