CUSD schools reopening

For a little over a year now, CUSD schools and most schools across the state have remained closed. Chances of reopening looked especially bleak between mid-December and mid-January, where cases in LA County were averaging 10,000-15,000 cases per day. Fortunately, cases have now plummeted to about 1,500 a day, prompting CUSD to look back at reopening plans and turn them into a reality. The plan begins with CUSD elementary schools, and students seem to be excited about the slight return to normalcy.

“I feel very excited because I get to see my friends and it had a lot of fun to do recess

outdoors or indoors,” Mountain View Elementary student Gia Cruz-Soto said. “I’m really excited to see my friends in person because it’s very exciting. Cause I get to see the big kid, the little kid, everything. That’s why I really want to get back to school.”

CUSD Interim Superintendent Julie Olesniewicz declared in a letter to the families of students that the CUSD Reopening Task Force has been working diligently to match the district’s reopening guideline with the California Safe Schools for All plan, which “provides school districts support and accountability to establish a clear path to minimize in-school transmissions of COVID-19 and enable, first, a phased return to in-person instruction, and then ongoing safe in-person instruction” according to the letter. In short, the Safe Schools for All plan gives an idea as to how reopening should look like while keeping students and staff safe under the LA County metrics, which states that the county needs to be under 25 cases per 100,000 residents for five consecutive days for K-6 schools to open. LA County reached this threshold in February, leading to a target reopening date for elementary schools on Monday, April 12th. This is still in the purple tier, which is over 10 new cases per 100,000 residents.

For many students, online school has been a major adjustment and the sudden change has forced everyone involved to find new ways to participate and stay engaged in a completely foreign learning environment. Fortunately, teachers have adapted very well and kept students intrigued and ready to learn.

“I feel like it was really good. I had a lot of fun because some things I was kind of sad that we couldn’t do some things that we could do in the classroom, but we improvised and I feel like it was good,” Mountain View Elementary 5th grade student Madison Mendez said.
The question is no longer whether the school will begin transitioning to in-person learning but how quickly that process will be. Students are more divided on this subject than other aspects of school.

Mendez said that she found personally enjoy a slower transition so people can continue to stay safe to avoid any staff getting sick, which has the potential to derail a smooth transition if it were to occur. On the other hand, Cruz-Soto, like many other six-year-olds, wants a very fast transition because she wants to return to playing on the playground during recess, being close to teachers, and hugging those she holds dear in her life.

An even newer development shows that the county has now entered the red tier, which is 4-10 new cases per 100,000 residents for 2 consecutive weeks, giving the green light for middle schools and high schools to reopen. With this new information, CUSD has now set a Phase 2 reopening date for grades 7-12 on Monday, April 19th. The transition to hybrid learning, which has half of the schools in person and the other half having Zoom classes, will apply to all students except for those in the CHAMP and CORE programs. The tentative date still relies on “continued approval for in-person instruction from the L.A. County Department of Public Health, successful negotiations of working conditions with our associations, and any unforeseen changes that may arise in the upcoming weeks” according to the latest letter from Olesniewicz.

Some CHS are against the idea of returning to school in under a month, given that the news seemed to come out of the blue.

“I don’t think we’ve had enough time to prepare,” CHS junior Cayla Crilly “There are so many issues, which I don’t think have been thought of and that we have a solution for, such as people that already have pre existing health issues or people that have off campus classes or weird schedules. I don’t personally feel the safest nor do my parents.”

Crilly sees the move as merely a ploy for schools to gain more government funding and as a sign of neglect from the district towards the health of the students, since it would be difficult to make sure all students follow the health and safety guidelines. Additionally, Crilly noted that the valued in-person factor that the Phase 2 hybrid schooling would bring is insufficient and does not help the students who have struggled to adjust and learn well on an online platform.

Some of the standards demanded by the LA County Department of Public Health include mask wearing, social distancing, and classrooms with a maximum of 16 students. Any school that has reopened following the guidelines will be allowed to stay open even if LA County falls back into the purple tier; schools that have not reopened will not be allowed to reopen if LA County falls into the purple tier.

The biggest factor in the transition is certainly the case levels in LA County, as CUSD tries to gather as much information as possible in order to make the best decision for teachers, students, and staff. All they can hope for is the aforementioned factors that influence how smooth the transition, along with teacher vaccinations and the efficacy of implementing safety measures, goes as perfect as possible to create the best atmosphere for students and parents as the end of the school year approaches.