SUSD begins paperwork for school waiver process

The Saugus Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Saugus Union School District governing board members voted recently to start the paperwork to submit a waiver request to allow in-person classes once L.A. County Public Health officials approve.

The vote at last week’s board meeting was unanimous. It clears the way for district staff to begin the process of preparing a waiver for the L.A. County Department of Public Health to reopen schools within the district — but it won’t be submitted until the number of COVID-19 cases in the county declines, school officials said. 

“The vote will get the ball rolling on the paperwork,” said Laura Arrowsmith, SUSD board president. “When the county opens the window for a broader opening of the schools, we want to be ready when they start accepting waivers.”

In order to obtain a waiver from Public Health, districts will be required to submit an application along with a letter from the superintendent, letters of support from unions or organizations that represent parents or teachers and a checklist of each school that would be reopening, including an acknowledgement of the health and safety protocols required by L.A. County.

Currently, the county is in the most restrictive tier of COVID-19 regulations set forth by the state. California Department of Public Health officials recommend counties to be under 200 cases per 100,000 residents before allowing schools to reopen.

The board also voted 3-1 in favor of allowing on-campus, in-person services to high-need groups who can’t receive services via distance learning, after Public Health announced small groups of students can return if necessary. This includes students with special needs, English-learners and those with individual education plans, according to the district’s agenda.

The small cohorts of students were not able to exceed 12 students and two supervisors, according to the county’s guidelines.

“Out of the 15 schools in the district, only two are bringing in small cohorts of students,” said Arrowsmith. “They’re given face shields, masks, gowns and gloves. There’s the frequent handwashing, as well, since sinks are in kindergarten classrooms — and, of course, social distancing.”

Students in the small cohorts were able to return to school Monday.

“We’re working on contingency plans for when we’re able to apply for a waiver,” Arrowsmith said. “We don’t want to wait until the county approves for reopening, and then we start making plans. When they open that window we want to be prepared.”

A correction was made to this article due to a source error. The board voted 3-1 to allow small cohorts of students to return to in-person classes.

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