2 Kings County schools become first in Central Valley to be allowed to reopen campuses

Despite the region's high COVID-19 case rate, Kings County was able to show the state that the rate was actually lower in the areas surrounding St. Rose-McCarthy and Hanford Christian.
HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- Soon, students will be able to return to St. Rose-McCarthy Catholic School in Hanford.

The school recently received a waiver to reopen in-person instruction for its TK-6th grade students.

Principal Jamie Perkins says families were overjoyed by the news.

"There's a deep love in the community for our school," Perkins said. "We're 103 years old and we're not going to let COVID take us down."

All but a few of St. Rose-McCarthy's 86 elementary grade students will return in ten days.

They'll wear masks, wash their hands frequently, keep space from one another, but will not be mixing with students outside their class.

"They'll enter through one door and they'll exit through the other door," Perkins said. "When it's time to go out to recess, they're going to go as a class, and they're going to stay together."

The school has a plan in case someone tests positive for COVID-19.

But Perkins says they are going to be very careful, because the idea isn't just to reopen.

It's to stay open too.

"There's nothing that replaces in-person learning for a child and a lot of our kids they're just not thriving online," she said. "We don't want them to lose their love for school and for learning."

St. Rose-McCarthy and another private school, Hanford Christian, were required to work with Kings County Public Health's Darcy Pickens to finalize their COVID-19 prevention plans.

"I ensure that it is in line with state guidance," Pickens said. "I offer recommendations around how they can improve their prevention plan, how they can make any planned measures more robust, keep their kids and staff as safe as possible, (and) make sure they have the latest information on COVID."

The county is then required to consult with the state department of public health before approving or denying a waiver.

Despite the region's high case rate, the county was able to show the state that the rate was actually lower in the areas surrounding St. Rose-McCarthy and Hanford Christian.

"(These schools) have the ability to really adhere very closely to the CDPH guidance around school reopening," Pickens said. "They have small classrooms. They have committed to testing for their teachers, and made kind of drastic improvements to their schools in some cases to be able to allow kids to come back a little bit more safely."

Hanford Christian also received a reopening waiver, and according to its website, is already back in session.

Pickens says two other private school waiver applications are currently pending with the state.

The state has also consulted with nine schools in Kern County. But there have been no consultations with schools in Mariposa, Madera, Merced, Fresno, or Tulare Counties.

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