Weekly roundup: A look at school reopening timelines, restoring a historic landmark, and more

There were quite a few stories this week about school reopening timelines.

We’ll start with the Los Alamitos Unified School District, which, after applying for a waiver from the state, became the first local district to bring its elementary students back for in-person learning, albeit with modifications. As the Orange County Register reported, all playgrounds remained closed, hand-washing stations were abundant and students were divided into AM and PM shifts.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District said it, too, will apply for a state waiver that could enable elementary students to return for on-site classes before Sept. 22, according to the Laguna Beach Independent.

TypewriterMeanwhile, a number of other districts were forging ahead with reopening plans based on the governor’s four-tiered system, which, if local COVID-19 trends continue, would green-light Orange County campuses on Sept. 22.

Officials with the Anaheim Union High School District said on-site instruction could resume there with a hybrid model by mid-October, but Superintendent Michael Matsuda told the Register that local health conditions may warrant waiting until early January.

The Capistrano Unified School District unveiled its plan to phase in on-site instruction, with kindergarteners and first-graders starting up on Sept. 29, second- and third-graders returning on Oct. 1, and fourth- and fifth-graders coming back Oct. 5. Middle schoolers would return under a hybrid model on Oct. 6, and high schoolers would receive live instruction beginning Oct. 13. Students in select special education programs could return as early as Sept. 28. The CUSD school board also voted to simultaneously pursue an elementary waiver.

The Fullerton Joint Union High School District announced it will bring students back no earlier than Oct. 5. The Buena Park Elementary School District, one of Fullerton’s feeder districts, hasn’t announced a timetable but will take a “cautiously conservative” approach to ramping up on-site instruction, the Register reported.

[Updated Sept. 17] While the Garden Grove Unified School District was initially targeting October, officials have announced that more time will be needed to plan for on-site classes.

The Irvine Unified School District announced to families Thursday that students enrolled in hybrid and traditional models will return for in-person instruction on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25. Schools will contact their families with specific information. The district said it is exploring the state’s waiver process.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District said TK-2 and students in special day classes would return on Sept. 29, followed by grades three through six on Oct. 1. Middle and high school students will return on Oct. 12. Those who enrolled in a virtual academy will continue with distance learning. The school board also voted 4-3 to pursue a waiver.

The Tustin Unified School District announced that its elementary schools will reopen for in-person instruction on Sept. 24. Secondary schools in Tustin will welcome back students on Sept. 29.

In the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, the board voted to allow a return to on-campus, in-person instruction through a hybrid model beginning Sept. 29.

The Santa Ana Unified School District has yet to set a date for when its students will return.

And here are some of the other education news stories we’ve been following:

  • Chapman University is looking to restore the site of the historic Lydia D. Killefer School, which voluntarily desegregated three years before Orange County’s landmark Mendez v. Westminster decision — and a decade before Brown v. Board. The university recently closed escrow and has released renovation plans for the former schoolhouse.
  • The 17th annual Orange County Children’s Book Festival kicks off virtually on Monday, Sept. 14 with an impressive roster of authors, illustrators, storytellers and entertainers. Executive Director Pat Burns offered a preview of what attendees can expect during a Q&A with the OCDE Newsroom.
  • As expected, Orange County made the jump this week to the less restrictive red tier on the state’s color-coded system for tracking COVID-19 progress. Assuming OC’s data remains in the red-tier range — or dips lower — local K-12 schools will be eligible to reopen with physical distancing and other safety measures in place on Sept. 22.
  • The California Supreme Court said it would not hear a pair of lawsuits seeking to invalidate statewide guidance for when schools could reopen for in-person instruction, including a suit filed by the five-member OC Board of Education. The court’s denial is not expected to impact school reopening timelines, which are determined by each district’s locally elected board and superintendent.
  • Recognizing the toll that a public health crisis, social isolation and economic anxieties can take on communities, OCDE has been working to support the mental health needs of students and families through distance learning and beyond.
  • According to NPR, new research suggests about half of the 4.5 million child care businesses in the U.S. could be permanently closed because of the pandemic.
  • Preschools that remain open are finding innovative ways to engage students and encourage socialization, but some child care advocates are concerned about the long-term impacts of pandemic-era learning on pre-K kids.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.