SANTEE, Calif. – For the first time in more than six months, students in grades 1 through 8 Monday returned to classrooms in the Santee School District.
The district’s new AM/PM hybrid model brings students back to the classroom for a few hours a day, half in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Classrooms are sanitized between cohorts, which allow for up to 15 students per class, according to the district.
Approximately 5,500 students across nine campuses returned to the classroom Monday, district officials said, while roughly 13% of Santee students opted to continue distance learning.
“As we drove through Santee today, it was awesome to see our kids back on campus,” district Superintendent Kristin Baranski said.
According to Baranski, the district’s Safe At School reopening plan, which is updated weekly, puts into place a number of new safety measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Among them:
- Students’ temperatures and virus symptoms are screened daily;
- Students are seated in classrooms at least 6 feet apart;
- Masks must be worn at all times for students in third grade and older;
- Lunches are not being eaten on campus and recess equipment is off-limits; and
- All students are given their own supplies including pencils, pens, chalk, and books.
“That was important that they weren’t touching other people’s things,” Baranski said.
Parents and administrators have faced an evolving and at-times conflicting set of recommendations from experts and public officials about when and how to reopen campuses.
The Centers for Disease Control has said some schools can bring kids back on campus safely, citing lower reported case and death rates among children. However, the agency only recommends opening in areas where there is not significant community spread of the virus, and where schools can be certain that precautions, including social distancing, face coverings and limiting activities, will be followed.
In California, counties must be in the state’s “red tier” for two weeks in order for campuses to be allowed to reopen. But the decision ultimately falls to individual districts to determine if and when to open.
Baranski said the district received support from its school board and community members to move forward with its hybrid reopening plan.
Ultimately, if things go well, the district’s goal is to return to full days of on-campus learning by Nov. 9, Baranksi said.
“We really do, just like all school districts, care for the academic and emotional well being of children,” she said. “That’s why we wanted to make sure we got everyone on campus.”