Porterville Unified School District (PUSD) and Burton School District (BSD) had high hopes of seeing their students return to campus in Monday, but after new guidelines for reopening schools were released by the California Department of Health (CDH) on January 14, both districts are having to revise their plans. BSD has completely cancelled reopening their campuses, while PUSD still plans to reopen, but have to modify their plans.
PUSD is reopening schools on Monday, according to PUSD superintendent Nate Nelson.
"We're modifying our opening plan," Nelson said. "The California Department of Public Health released some updated guidance so we're still working on kind of revamping our plans to ensure that we comply with that new guidance, but we will be able to have small cohorts back on Monday."
Nelson added that the schools reopening will be kindergarten through sixth grade, while the middle and high school will also bring back small cohorts.
Because PUSD had opened three pilot elementary schools, Vandalia, West Putnam and Los Robles, before Christmas, the district felt that they could move forward in letting their students return to school in-person.
"We had three pilot sites open, but we're looking at our elementary sites bringing back small cohorts and then also resuming small cohorts at our middle school and high schools," Nelson said.
In a letter from BSD superintendent Sergio Mendoza, which was sent out on Wednesday to the parents and guardians of Burton students, Mendoza states that the district has decided to continue distance learning for the time being for the safety of their students.
The letter read as follows:
“Dear Burton Families, Thank you for your patience and understanding as we have been monitoring COVID-19 and the impact that it has had in our community and beyond. This school year has definitely presented many challenges to all of our Burton Community. We were positioned to begin a TK-6 hybrid schedule on Monday, January 25th with proper safety protocols through the waiver process. Unfortunately, due to new guidance released on January 14, 2021 from the California Department of Health (CDPH) our reopening has been postponed.
“The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California 2020-2021 School Year states the following: “Even if the school previously received a waiver under the former Elementary Education Waiver Process or meets the conditions to reopen under the updated Elementary Reopening Process, if it has not yet reopened and the county case rate exceeds the criteria, the school must delay reopening until the county case rate drops below the threshold.” Currently, our county exceeds the threshold of 25 COVID cases per 100,000 population.
“Throughout these extraordinary times, we have made a commitment to our Burton community to look at the scientific evidence as well as guidance from state and local health departments to drive the decisions of safety for our staff, students and families. Burton teachers have worked hard implementing our distance learning plans for every student and parents have done an incredible job supporting their children, and our teachers, through it all. We will continue to provide high quality distance learning instruction and support for our staff, students and families.
“We understand that this news will undoubtedly come as a relief to some and a disappointment to others; what holds true for nearly every family is that this will have a direct impact on everyone. We will continue to monitor and update you as information becomes available. Thank you for your continued patience and support.”