School districts cannot fully reopen until county gives the OK

Teacher, Nicholas Patey teaches calculus in an empty classroom at Golden Valley High School on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

School districts across the Santa Clarita Valley have prepared the necessary paperwork to submit in-school waivers, which would allow lower grade levels to return to campus, but the higher grade levels will have to wait for the county to allow it.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the reopening of schools for grades TK-2 during a board meeting in late September, and the L.A. County Department of Public Health began accepting waivers from school districts Oct. 5, but students in higher grade levels and high schools districts will have to wait for the county to allow a more broad reopening.

“We’re on a ‘wait-and-see’ basis,” said Dave Caldwell, public relations officer for the William S. Hart Union High School District. “There’s nothing the district can do in terms of reopening or to speed up the process. Once the county gives us the go-ahead, we can consider when to reopen.”

L.A. County continues to be in Tier 1, or the purple tier, of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” scale, meaning COVID-19 is considered to be widespread through community transmission, according to the Department of Public Health website.

“While Los Angeles County remains in Tier 1 on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, schools must remain closed to in-person instruction, with the exception of limited specialized services and assessments for high-need students,” according to a Public Health webpage.

Once the county moves into Tier 2, or the red tier, the county will begin to allow a broader reopening of schools, and only then, Caldwell said, can the Hart district begin the process of reopening.

“Once the county moves into the next tier, (the district) can start considering when to reopen and discuss when in the semester it would make the best sense for everyone involved,” Caldwell said. “Until then, we’re at the mercy of the county.”

Other school districts in the SCV have begun to gather paperwork for the county, which will — once approved — allow students in TK to second grade return to on-campus instruction.

In order to be approved, school districts must submit the application, which includes letters of support from unions or staff members and parents, and proof the school is following protocol to mitigate virus transmission, adequate amounts of personal protection equipment and testing resources to teachers and staff.

Both the Newhall and Saugus Union school districts have begun the paperwork to submit a waiver.

“As of now, we’re working on the process,” said SUSD Superintendent Colleen Hawkins. She added the paperwork could be completed as early as next week, but that is a “loose estimate.”

Sulphur Springs Union School District board members asked Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi to pursue the waiver process during the district’s Wednesday board meeting, Kawaguchi said Friday.

The Castaic Union School District’s governing board discussed the waiver during its Oct. 8 board meeting, but decided to continue the discussion at their next board meeting on Nov. 12 before making a decision, according to Charmin Ortega, executive assistant to CUSD superintendent Steve Doyle.

The Department of Public Health will give reopening priority to schools with higher numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, and will only allow 30 schools to open a week within the county.

The application process could take up to three weeks after it is submitted to the county, said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during an Oct. 5 press conference. The county will consult with the California Department of Public Health and perform site visits before allowing a school to reopen.

If approved, only students in TK-2 grades will be allowed to return to in-person instruction on campus. Higher grade levels will continue to be virtual until the county allows for a broader reopening.

As of Friday, no schools in the county were approved to reopen, according to the Department of Public Health.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS