Candice Anvari staff writer
Kate Kotlyar staff writer
The district prepares to reopen middle school and the high school campuses on April 8, as on March 9 L.A. County reached an adjusted case rate of 5.2 per 100,000 people. As a result, health and safety precautions have been put into place in the four schools.
On Feb. 20, BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy announced that TK-5th grades were eligible to return to campus and on March 8, TK-2nd grades returned to school and the following day, 3rd-5th grades returned to in-person learning. At the secondary level, cohorts will be split up into Cohort A and Cohort B. Cohort A will come to school Monday and Tuesday, Cohort B will come to school Thursday and Friday, and Wednesday will be a day with learning occurring virtually.
In preparation for reopening, the district implemented health and safety provisions to help decrease the risk of COVID-19 on campus. The two main entrances of the BHHS campus will have two infrared temperature sensors, which will monitor students’ temperature as they come to school each day.
A health screening will be completed at home every day before school via ParentSquare. All students are expected to follow health regulations, which entail maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask. If a student is unable to follow the regulations, they will be asked to leave campus.
“All students and staff will be required to wear face masks and potentially face shields. The face shield will not be required, but masks will be. A health screening every day will verify that students don’t have a temperature and that they don’t have any of the other symptoms,” Assistant Principal Drew Stewart said. “We are making sure that we’re following the county health guidelines, which is really the most important thing.”
If a student or teacher shows COVID-19 symptoms on campus, they will be put into a quarantine room until they receive further examination by a district professional. However, if students or teachers present symptoms at home, they should let the district know and attend school through distance learning.
“If we’re back in person and a student or teacher tests positive [for] COVID-19, the actual cohort would have to stay home. Let’s say there’s a 2nd grade classroom at Hawthorne, and there were like eight or nine students in the morning cohort,” Bregy said. “If someone in that cohort of eight students and the teacher gets COVID-19, that cohort has to go home quarantined for 14 days. You’d have to bring in a substitute teacher for the afternoon.”
According to California Department of Health guidelines, if 25% of a school district is shut down due to COVID, the whole district would be forced to return to distance learning. Due to the four operating schools in the district, if one school is shut down, the other three campuses must return to distance learning as well.
“If we have three [COVID-19] cases…then we would actually have to shut down the whole school, which would shut down the whole district,” Board Vice President Tristen Walker-Shuman said. “One campus is the equivalent to 25% of the district, so if one campus shuts down, that sends everyone back to remote learning, which is part of the reason we hesitated to go back before the numbers recently started to fall.”
Bregy believes that the TK-5 return will help the district identify any faults in the current return plan.
“There’s some things that we need to do on our end to make some improvements. I think waiting until we can all come back is probably not in our best interest, but bringing people back in cohorts is a smart thing to do,” Bregy said. “Seeing our kids––our TK through 2nd grade kids––just seeing the reaction when they saw their friends and they saw their teachers. I think it’s a good way to end, three months before the school year ends. I just think it’s a nice little taste of getting a little in-person. We had some kids that were starting to cry when they saw their teacher because they’ve only seen them through Zoom, so it was a really moving experience.”
Walker-Shuman believes that the “most shocking” aspect of returning will be the transition from being isolated to being around students.
“I think that we’re used to this type of isolation. So I think the most shocking thing will be being back in buildings with, what by comparison to isolation, is large numbers of students. Even the classroom cohorts in itself are going to be strange because I don’t know how many classes have only 14 kids, so that’s going to be different and it will take a little adjustment,” Walker-Shuman said.
Stewart is hopeful that students and teachers can readjust to “real life” upon returning back to campus.
“It’s been almost exactly a year since we’ve left campus, so I think return to real life is scary for people and not just because of the pandemic. I think that each of us has our own thing, like instead of wandering on campus, you will watch Netflix at lunch,” Stewart said. “I think we’ve all gotten into a completely different routine that’s taken us out of normal life as we knew it, so I think that there’s a reasonable fear of going back to real life, not just because of the pandemic, but because we’ve gotten so used to that our new normal or new reality.”
Stay tuned for more updates.