After much consternation and internal planning, students within the Los Alamitos Unified School System on Monday finally returned to school for the new year, even if they are still not able to return to their classrooms.
Nevertheless, in a memo to parents, Dr. Andrew Pulver, Supt., said “I want to reassure you that we have and will continue to base our decisions on the latest science and data from the state and county public health officials.”
In a bit of good news, the superintendent’s office confirmed receipt of state guidance for special education students, a bone of contention that had earlier driven the system to threaten legal action if not received.
Although Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a revised reopening plan, Pulver said in the update that “if people throughout the county continue following state mandates and guidance and doing everything they can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, schools in Orange County will be able to reopen for in-person instruction after the Labor Day holiday.”
In a further update on Tuesday, however, Pulver announced new dates for a hybrid return to classrooms, explaining the significance of the governor’s new system.
“We know that responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to be quick on our feet to meet changing conditions; today is no exception,” he added.
“The (new) tiers are designated by colors: Purple, Red, Orange and Yellow. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, each tier carries restrictions on activities in a county,” the superintendent said. This new monitoring system went into effect Monday, August 31.
“While the COVID-19 data in Orange County continues to move in the right direction, Orange County has initially been placed in the State’s Purple tier, the equivalent to being on the State Monitoring List under the previous tracking system,” explained Pulver.
“In order to move to the less restrictive Red tier, Orange County’s COVID-19 numbers must meet the lower tier’s thresholds for 14 days,” said Pulver.
Even though Orange County’s COVID-19 numbers continue to improve and already meet the Red tier requirements, the state and the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) have indicated that Orange County is expected to transition to the Red tier on Tuesday, September 8, said Pulver in the updated letter to parents.
“We must remain there for 14 days before schools will be allowed to reopen for modified in-person instruction on Tuesday, September 22,” he noted.
“In collaboration with our advocacy and support from legal counsel, we also have obtained confirmation from the California Department of Education that under our approved CDPH elementary waiver, we can open our elementary special education classes at the same time as our elementary classrooms,” said Pulver.
Pulver said that 77% of Los Al Unified families have selected our traditional schooling pathway while 23% have selected the distance learning, LosAl@Home pathway.
Nevertheless, he said the school year began “in a distance learning setting for all levels.”
As part of our reopening plan, Pulver said “if COVID-19 cases continue to remain static or decrease and Orange County meets the 14-day threshold, we are planning to reopen for in-person instruction in a Hybrid Setting.”
According to the superintendent, the “tentative” transition to classroom instruction under the new tiered system is as follows:
- All elementary schools will reopen in an AM/PM Hybrid Schedule on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
- McAuliffe and Oak Middle Schools will reopen in an AM/PM Hybrid Schedule on Monday, September 22, 2020.
- LAHS will reopen in an AM/PM Hybrid Schedule on Monday, September 29, 2020.
Pulver said the decision to stagger the reopening dates between elementary, middle, and high schools “will allow us to provide additional staffing and resources at each level during their reopening week, ensuring a more successful transition from distance learning to in-person learning.”
The staggered schedule will also be used to evaluate our systems, routines, and procedures detailed within the School Opening and Safety Plan approved by the board.
“Any decision to move out of the hybrid setting would be made only after measured consideration of the COVID-19 situation in the county,” he said.
“No matter how circumstances may shift, we are committed to providing the highest quality distance learning instruction we can implement through LosAl@Home and the safest experience possible in our Hybrid/Traditional Schooling Pathway, said Pulver in the letter.
Finally, Pulver issued a welcome back to school message to parents. “I am confident we will retain the gift of your flexibility and grace in making this extraordinary school year extraordinarily safe and successful for all. We are all truly Better Together.”