Vandalia, W. Putnam, Los Robles began in-person learning Monday 

Porterville Unified School District is gradually beginning to bring back students back to campus.

The district began offering in-person instruction on a limited basis on Monday as Los Robles, Vandalia and West Putnam Elementary Schools reopened for grades K-6. After PUSD finished the process of having its waiver approved to reopen its schools for grades K-6, the district began the process by reopening the three schools on Monday.

“We’re pleased with yesterday,” PUSD superintendent Nate Nelson said. “Things seemed to go well. We’re pleased to see kids back.”

With the current situation as far as the status of COVID-19 in Tulare County, Nelson said a smaller number of students than originally anticipated returned on Monday. “That was to be expected,” Nelson said.

Nelson also expressed his appreciation for all the work the three schools did to make it possible for students to return. “I was proud of the sites,” he said. “The first day went well.”

The three schools will remain open for students through December 17 until the Christmas break begins. PUSD has implemented a hybrid system in which the students are still for the most part participating in distance learning through Zoom.

Students are still participating in distance learning in the mornings and

three afternoons a week. One group of students are attending school at the three sites on Mondays and Thursdays. Another group of students will have their first day of school today and will attend school on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Nelson said the plan is still for the remaining elementary schools in the district to reopen for grades K-6 sometime soon after January 11 when school resumes after the Christmas break. He said the district will evaluate how how everything went at the three schools and will continue to monitor the situation as far as COVID-19 is concerned. He added a lot will depend on what transpires over the Christmas break as far as the COVID-19 situation is concerned as far as if and when the remaining schools will be reopened.

Families in the district have the option to continue with just distance learning or to have their children return to school. Nelson has said the district will also give families who originally choose just distance learning to eventually have their children return to school if they change their minds.

Approval of PUSD’S waiver was contingent on the district having a comprehensive plan for safety protocols in place for students and staff. That includes having extra hand washing stations at the sites, hand sanitizers in classrooms, smaller class sizes, maintaining social distancing, temperature checks for all students, having students wearing masks and face shields in some cases and personal protective equipment as need for staff as well.

All local schools who have applied have been cleared to reopen for grades K-6 with the exception of Woodville, which has had its waiver approved by the county. Woodville’s waiver is still being reviewed by the state.

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