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Superintendent: Reopening of school not likely this year

The superintendent of the Wasco Union Elementary School District presented a bleak picture regarding the reopening of school for the current school year.

"The WUESD is waiting for two things to occur before reopening," Superintendent Kelly Richers said. "1. The infection rate needs to drop below 25/100,000 and 2. The staff needs to have the opportunity to be vaccinated."

In his speeches, Gov. Gavin Newsom states that schools need to reopen as soon as possible; however, teachers are not on his first three tiers of those to be immediately vaccinated.

According to Newsom's model guidelines for vaccinations, Phase 1, Tier 1, only healthcare workers are being vaccinated, which includes acute care, skilled nursing locations, residents in long-term care facilities, paramedics, EMT's and dialysis centers.

Phase 1a, Tier 2, only healthcare workers are to be vaccinated, which includes intermediate care facilities for persons who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care, home health care and in-home supportive services, community health field staff and primary care clinics, including federally qualified health centers, rural health centers, correctional facility clinics and urgent care clinics.

Phase 1a, Tier 3 also includes healthcare workers, specialty clinics, laboratory workers, dental and other oral health clinics and pharmacy staff not working in settings at higher tiers.

Phase 1b, Tier 1 includes those at risk of exposure in the following careers including education, childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture.

"There is still no opening for teachers to be vaccinated," Richers said. "Therefore with a two-week window to be vaccinated and then a three-week wait for the second vaccination and a one-week wait for full effectiveness, we are still a minimum of six weeks away from any possible school opening."

Richers said that if and when the district reopens, the district will bring back the special education students first, then kindergarten two weeks later, then grade 1 two weeks later and then grade 2 two weeks later, etc.

He reported a survey was sent to all parents asking if they would be interested in having their student attend summer school in June and July (two full months) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. According to the survey results, 1,670 parents/guardians responded and around 46% said no, they would not send their student to summer school. Around 21% said that they might send their student to summer school while 24.7% said they would send their student to summer school if offered.

Richers also said that the state required districts to submit their reopening plans by Feb. 1, and WUESD submitted its plans, but he also said that it looks bleak that school will reopen this year.

"We will most likely have another virtual graduation ceremony for the middle schools," he added.

With the money promised by the state, WUESD will be putting $1 million into new classroom Chromebooks and $l-2 million into a ventilation system for the classrooms.

He also said three teachers will be taking retirement

"We plan on continuing distance learning and will create a position of coordinator of distance learning for next year," Richers said.


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