Orcutt Schools Targeting In-Person Return in March for Transitional Kindergarten Through Sixth Grade | School Zone

Younger students in the Orcutt Union School District could begin returning to the classroom as soon as March 9 under a plan supported by the board of trustees Monday night. 

The board held a special meeting to discuss reopening plans, with a goal of having some students return at the start of the third trimester as COVID-19 cases decline.

Reopening plans will encompass only transitional kindergartners to sixth-graders, and occur in phases over two weeks, according to Superintendent Holly Edds.

​The consistently declining COVID-19 case has educators hopeful that some in-person learning, with precautions, can resume. All five board members supported the plan.

“I’m encouraged to get the schools open, to get these kids back in class who wish to be,” said board member Mark Steller. 

“All of our policies and procedures are in place … and I agree with everyone else that we should open as soon as possible,” said Melanie Waffle, board president. “As a board, that is our direction to you — to do what you can to get the kids back into school with the cooperation and collaboration of the teachers and staff, and all of the administration.”

Older students, seventh- through 12th-graders, cannot return to in-person learning yet under current state rules, but board members spoke in favor of pushing to get them back on campus as soon as possible.

“We need to be able to give those kids not only a way to learn in the best possible environment, but to be able to have the memories that they deserve,” board member Shaun Henderson said.

Before the meeting, more than 50 masked adults and children armed with signs rallied in front of the district office, chanting “open up” and “vote yes.”

A student holds a sign urging trustees of the Orcutt Union School District to return to in-person as soon as possible.
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A student holds a sign urging trustees of the Orcutt Union School District to return to in-person as soon as possible. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

It’s not clear whether Monday’s direction was legal.

Board members stated their opinions, but stopped short of taking a formal vote about the reopening despite the fact the agenda only listed it as a discussion item.

Under the Ralph M. Brown (Open Meetings) Act, any action items, which don’t necessarily require a vote, must be identified on the agenda.

Next month’s planned reopening date coincides with the start of a new grading period, and would allow students to finish the current trimester before transitioning to possibly a new teacher and new learning model, Edds said. 

Plans under the blended learning schedule call for bringing one-half of the younger students to campus to accommodate social distancing requirements.

The schedule calls for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten to be on campus March 9, with morning and afternoon cohorts planned.

A student holds a sign urging trustees of the Orcutt Union School District to return to in-person as soon as possible.
Click to view larger

A student holds a sign urging trustees of the Orcutt Union School District to return to in-person as soon as possible. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

First and second grade cohorts A will begin on-campus lessons March 11, with cohorts B arriving on March 12.

Third  and fourth grade cohorts A return March 16, with cohorts B on March 17.

Fifth and sixth grade cohorts A will start March 18 while cohorts B follow on March 19. 

For transitional kindergarten through first grade, each cohort will meet for in-person instruction either in the morning or afternoon, for a half day from Tuesday through Friday each week.

In the past several weeks, a district survey asked parents to choose a learning model: move to blended learning, continue distance learning, stay with current teacher but if that’s not possible go to blended learning, or stay with teacher, if that’s not possible go to distance learning. 

For grades 1 to 6, a blended model would bring students on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays. When not on campus, students would use distancing learning for lessons.

Mondays will remain as distance-learning for transitional kindergartners through sixth-graders. 

Edds said each school has prepared a video spelling out daily procedures for the return to campus.

For instance, students will discover arrows guiding the direction they should walk, classroom ventilation systems having been tweaked and stations set up for hand washing.

“We look forward to having students back on our campuses, they are the reason we chose this profession and we can’t wait to see them in person,” Edds said. 

Reopening plans, schedules and safety measures can be found on the Orcutt district website, by clicking here.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Orcutt Schools Targeting In-Person Return in March for Transitional Kindergarten Through Sixth Grade | School Zone
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