Hart District discusses return-to-campus timeline, ‘full reopening’

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The earliest Santa Clarita Valley public junior highs and high schools could resume, optimistically, is Oct. 19 — although a return to campus would depend on a number of conditions, William S. Hart Union High School District officials discussed Wednesday.

However, Superintendent Mike Kuehlman also made it clear that a “full reopening” for the fall would not be what some might expect, and Hart District officials still would be implementing a blended learning model when in-person classes resume.

“I think there is a point of consensus that all of us agree,” Kuehlman said Wednesday, “that at the soonest possible moment when it’s safe to do so, we want to be back in the classroom with students.”

Blended learning plans would be a mix of online and in-person instruction.

But as things resume on campus, they’ll still be quite a bit different than what many are used to, due to a number of safety measures district officials are already working to enact.

“(Our school sites) have completed a huge amount of work, and they continue to prepare their campuses to conform to the state and county guidelines for schools,” said Collyn Nielsen, chief administrative officer for the Hart district, noting posted signage about social distancing and hand-washing, among other reminders; a reconfiguring of public spaces to prevent students congregating close together; and an abandonment of vending machines, to name a few of the changes.

Governing Board President Linda Storli noted on a recent campus visit how school staff were walking around with a 6-foot pole to space out desks as just one of the many examples of the new normal for campuses when students return.

Adding to the complications on the planning side of things, Hart district officials have been working around constant changes beyond their control, which was evidenced by the state’s surprise release of a color-coded system last week. The latest guidelines from Public Health placed Los Angeles County in the bottom of a four-tiered system, as well as all of its public schools, businesses, etc. — which is considered the highest level of infection, according to the state’s data metrics.

“We can’t do what we’re going to do until we’ve had 14 days out of that level,” said Storli, “and then, at the 15th day, we could start blended learning, as we were planning.”

Realistically, the very earliest the Hart district would be in that position would be Oct. 19, according to a presentation to the board by Kuehlman. However, that’s predicated upon L.A. County moving out of the purple tier Oct. 5, and then the board approving a date for a blended campus return. 

Although Storli cautioned that if it looked like the county wasn’t going to come off the list by early October, board members might hesitate to send kids back to school in November, right before they start to have holiday vacation.  

“That’s a real goal,” Storli said, regarding the October date, although she acknowledged that, like every L.A. County school district, that would be subject to Public Health orders and the county’s status. 

Another positive mentioned Wednesday was that district plans for small special needs cohorts — some of which have students who need in-person evaluation as part of their individualized learning plans — could resume on campus as early as Sept. 14, Storli said.

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