Maxwell Unified School District will be the envy of the county when school resumes next week for junior high and high school students after seven months in lockdown.
The state’s new colored-tiered system, and the way they now measure COVID-19 positivity risks (35 cases per week), means more students will be allowed to return to their classrooms for in-person instruction.
“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Superintendent Summer Shadley. “We are on board to start Oct. 27, which is the very first day that we are cleared to start, as long as we stay in the red.”
Princeton Jr/Sr High School, Pierce High School and Johnson Jr. High are looking to open for in-person instruction on Nov. 2.
School officials in all three districts said it is important for the schools to open for in-person now, while Colusa County is in the less restrictive tier for coronavirus, because once open, they stay open.
“If we open and everything is good in our little bubble, even if the County goes back to purple, then they can’t tell us to close,” Shadley said. “The only way we would close, is if we had outbreaks within our own system.”
School board members in Maxwell and Pierce, in their regular meetings last week, thanked the teachers for their willingness to return to in-person instruction.
School for junior high and high school students will be a hybrid model that consists of in-person and distance learning. The school day for students will end around noon, when students are given a grab-and-go lunch to take home in order to avoid having students mingling during lunch.
Facial coverings on campus will be required at all times, along with six feet of distance, except for brief temperature checks in schools where they will be taken before students enter classrooms.
“We expect our students and teachers to have their masks on, and then it will only be for a quick read, and then they will move on,” said Pierce Superintendent, Carol Geyer.
Distance learning will still be available for students who can’t or won’t return, but officials said the estimated number of students suffering learning loss, failing classes, or experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression from the online platform of education is staggering.
Additionally, the majority of parents surveyed in Colusa County school districts have indicated they want their kids back in school.
“I realize that some people are concerned about their safety, and I acknowledge and understand that; I have a child with health issues,” said Arbuckle parent Lorraine Marsh. “But he and my husband and I have all agreed that the cost of staying home is far greater than the cost of going back to school.”
While school officials said they are extremely grateful that teachers are making the return to school happen, they said the true heroes right now are the custodial staff, who have been working with staff shortages to keep the schools clean in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus on surfaces.
As of Monday, Colusa County had only five active cases of COVID-19 or 1.9 cases over seven days.
Colusa Unified is also making plans for reopening. Williams Unified has remained uncommitted to reopening this school year.
If high schools do not open and Colusa County returns to the purple tier (widespread), then schools would not be allowed to open until the county reaches red again and then maintains that status for an additional two weeks, officials said.
If all goes well, Shadley said she expects Maxwell schools to open for full day instruction, and the return to some sort of normalcy, by January. ♣