Valley elementary schools face hurdles in applying for reopen waivers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Elementary schools may soon be allowed to reopen in some parts of California, while middle and high school campuses remain closed.

School superintendents will need to apply for a waiver to reopen, after consulting with labor, parent, and community organizations.

They'll also need to post their reopening plans online, including topics like cleaning, testing, and physical distancing.

As the director of Tulare County's Health and Human Services Agency, Tim Lutz, explained at a board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday, local health officers make the final call on whether to grant or deny requests.

"We have a team in place within health and human services that is going to be dedicated to receiving these waivers, working with the schools," Lutz said. "We intend to review the requests on a case by case basis, factoring in local conditions, and then discussing any plan modifications or concerns with the districts."

But as stated in bold on its website, the California Department of Public Health recommends that schools in counties with extremely high case rates, more than 200 per 100,000 people, should not be considered for a waiver.

As of Tuesday, Tulare County's case rate was well above that mark with 593 cases per 100,000 people.

South Valley schools will face other hurdles, like requirements for contact tracing and testing.

But Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire says many have at least started to develop their reopening plans, because they were already preparing for some level of in-person instruction before the state stepped in.

"(Such as) planning contingency protocols for if and when a staff member or student tested positive," Hire said. "What would be our response? How would we isolate that student or staff member if they were on campus?"

Schools requesting a waiver will need to submit their applications at least two weeks before they plan to reopen.

The state also released guidance on youth sports on Monday.

Sporting events aren't allowed, and physical conditioning and training needs to be outdoors with social distancing in place.

More information about youth sports can be found here:
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