Valley schools faced with Omicron variant as students return to class

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The national surge in COVID cases brought on by the omicron variant is reflected in the numbers at Sierra Unified School district.

In a district meeting Monday, the superintendent explained that cases among teachers and bus drivers in the double digits shut down in-person learning for the small district of 1,250 students.

"Numbers starting kind of climbing Friday," says Jordan Reeves. "Anticipated hopefully that the weekend would produce some better results and information. And to the contrary, it didn't."

At the end of the school day Monday, students were sent home with school-issued devices or packets of school supplies for four days of distance learning.

"The vast majority of people that are currently out as of today will be able to return per the guidelines on Tuesday," Reeves said.

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The holidays are through and it's back to school for Central California students, but not all campuses will be back up and running in person.

At Fresno Unified, Tuesday is the first day back and it will be business as usual.

RELATED: COVID-19 testing continues as Fresno Unified prepares for return to campus

Even with over 200 staff and teachers who have called out, district officials say they have enough subs to cover even if cases keep surging.

"Additional subs are ready to be deployed and then if we have to deploy our teachers on special assignment or our administrative staff, we will be doing that as well to make sure that we have coverage for kids," says Paul Idsvoog with Fresno Unified.

New this semester is weekly COVID testing on every FUSD campus.

District officials have stressed that rapid tests administered on-site will be an optional resource.

"From a clinical basis for families who consent to have their child assessed," says FUSD Superintendent Bob Nelson. "So right now, we are doing some pilot testing at some of our sites."

Another change at Fresno Unified -- quicker quarantines.

Students can return to school on the sixth day of infection if they receive a negative clinical test on day five.

"You need to have a clinical test, not one of the binax cards or the rapid test," Nelson said.

Classes have been back in session for a week for Clovis Unified students. Much like the trend in COVID across California, cases skyrocketed the first week back.

In mid-December, the district had 80 cases, then 51, including staff.

After returning from winter break, staff and student positive cases totaled 920.

Even with about 100 substitutes in for teachers Monday, the district says they'll have enough staff to keep classrooms open.
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