Newhall district submits reopening waiver paperwork

Photo courtesy of the Newhall School District.

During an engagement night event, officials at the Newhall School District reported they had submitted reopening waivers for grades TK-2 to return to in-person instruction and provided parents with an update on a recent ransomware attack.

The district met the requirements set by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in order to submit reopening waivers for all 10 campuses in the district, which would allow TK-second grade students to return to campus once approved by the county.

“We submitted the waivers Thursday just before 10 a.m.,” said superintendent Jeff Pelzel. “Now we just wait in a queue. The process could take anywhere from two to three weeks.”

Once approved, the district will begin to switch to a hybrid model of instruction, where students are on campus for half-days, and will continue their schoolwork at home.

“The hybrid model is an AM/PM model where half of the students come in the morning for 2.5 hours and half come in the afternoon for 2.5 hours. During the opposite part of the day, students would engage in their on-line learning for science, social studies and other programs. This model would be Monday (through) Thursday,” according to a document on the district’s website.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks while on campus once campuses reopen, according to district officials, and families will be responsible for administering temperature checks each day before students go to campus.

The district will be surveying parents through the spring 2021 semester to see if there is a need to offer distance learning through the 2021-22 school year. If the district determines there is a need, parents can choose to keep their children on a distance learning curriculum.

Before campuses in the district can reopen, the department of public health will review the application, but will prioritize schools with high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

As of Monday, the county approved the waiver for four schools, none of which are located in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The county approved having small cohorts of students return to campus for those who require specialized services which could not be fulfilled by distance learning, which began at Pico Canyon and Old Orchard Elementary Schools Monday. 

The district also provided an update on cyber security during a “parent engagement night” Wednesday, after a ransomware attack paused distance learning in September during the engagement night.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation, so there wasn’t much information that could be given out,” said Pelzel, “but based on experts within the investigation, we know there wasn’t a data breach.”

The attack paused distance learning in the district for a week, during which students were given lesson plans through a different online platform which was not affected by the attack.

“We have taken additional steps and upgraded our system to make the reoccurrence of something like this happening again less likely,” according to district officials.

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