Clovis Unified Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell said that schools in the district will conduct classes online to begin the new school year after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that counties on the state’s coronavirus watchlist for 14 days conduct classes via distance learning.
Newsom said counties must be off of the state’s coronavirus watchlist for at least 14 days before they can reopen.
Fresno County has been on the state’s watchlist for longer than two weeks, meaning that its schools, including those in the Clovis Unified School District, must begin the school year with distance learning as cases in the county continue to rise.
Should Fresno County get off of the state’s watchlist, CUSD Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell said that the district would be prepared to resume in-person instruction promptly.
“Our goal is that we can pivot immediately,” O’Farrell said in a Zoom meeting with reporters. “I’m hoping that this county works collaboratively to safeguard our most precious resource, which is our children and to get ourselves off that watchlist. Get all those numbers down, the hospitalizations down… so that we can get our kids back in school.”
Up until Friday’s announcement, California had allowed individual school districts to determine how they will reopen.
Clovis Unified voted to allow in-person instruction with an option for online learning to families that were not comfortable sending their children to campus during its latest meeting on Wednesday.
Before making its decision to reopen, the district consulted with local public health officials and studied pediatric data for youth and COVID as well as adult transmission research, which is why O’Farrell said that the decision by Newsom is frustrating.
“It takes away our local control, which is a source of frustration for us,” she said. “Also, it means, quite frankly, that we are going to have to pivot and move towards a platform where we will be starting out the school year.”
If a school district is allowed to reopen, it would then be forced to close again if more than 5 percent of the school tests positive for the coronavirus. Also, if more than 25 percent of the schools in a district close, the entire district must go back to distance learning.
Schools must provide improved distance learning programs and provide access to devices and internet connectivity.
Many of the larger districts in the state have already decided to begin the school year with distance learning, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.