Fresno County school districts can now apply for reopening waiver

Fresno County remained in the COVID-19 'Purple tier' but its case rate has dropped to well below 14 new cases per 100,000 people.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County remained in the COVID-19 'Purple tier' but its case rate has dropped to well below 14 new cases per 100,000 people.

Because of that reduction, school districts are now allowed to apply for waivers to bring some students back on campus.

Fresno County School Superintendent Jim Yovino explained, "Right now we're in that cohorting phase where districts can bring back small groups and it's usually for special ed kids, English as second learners - kids who can't connect digitally."

But we could start seeing elementary schoolkids back on Fresno County campuses by mid-October.

Several school districts were already busy applying for waivers for kids in Transitional Kindergarten through 6th.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said, "This does breed hope in terms of thinking maybe we can get back in sometime in the future."

Fresno Unified will meet with teachers, staff, and parents before applying next week. The district was focused on an even younger group, TK-2nd.

Nelson said, "We're actually probably going to start with our little ones and keep expanding on how many kids we have on campus at one point in time. We will not be able to bring all students back."

Many students would continue remote learning.

The hybrid model would allow schools to see how they are handling social distancing.

Yovino said, "What the elementary waiver allows is it allows that 3rd grade teacher who has 30 students. She can have 15 in the morning, 15 in the afternoon."

On the Fresno County waiver application, districts must show COVID-19 safety guidelines are firmly in place. County Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra will be considering the applications.

Nelson said, "The waiver is not 'school is opening,' lest people be confused by that. The waiver is small cohorts of kids."

Kings Canyon Unified has told families if their waiver is approved, a hybrid model with in-class instruction could begin October 15th for students TK-6th.

Yovino said, "The boards are the ones that are going to make the decision for each district individually and even though we're doing this, we're still going to have many kids on distance learning."

Should COVID numbers continue to fall and Fresno County moves from Purple to the lower Red tier, re-opening plans would expand to middle and high schools.
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