On Dec. 31 we shared a directive from the Fresno County Department of Public Health that delayed our return of additional phases of students to in-person instruction in January. After continued discussion with FCDPH it is clear that, with no change in county-wide COVID data, the anticipated return of additional students in January will be delayed until at least February 1.
“We are sensitive to the needs of our parents and staff to have time to plan for this next phase of our return to on-campus instruction. Hearing from our partners at the public health department that their existing direction to schools is unlikely to change before next week, we are taking steps today to share news that the implementation of our next phase of in-person instruction must be further delayed,” said Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell, Ed.D.
We will continue to update you on the status of ongoing directives from FCDPH in the coming days. Please note that individual school sites will also provide updates and information to families prior to February 1 as needed to address unique situations existing at a given school site.
Q. What has changed?
A. Any student who was already attending in-person instruction for any reason, will continue to do so (unless notified by site of a staffing issue requiring short-term distance learning). Any student who was scheduled to phase into in-person instruction (grades TK-12) for the first time any time in January, will continue with on-line learning until at least February 1 pending additional direction from public health officials. As we continue to communicate with our local public health department, we will update our community on the status of these directives regularly. A decision about whether we must additionally delay our next phase of in-person instruction will be based on continued direction by local health officials. Public health officials have directed schools to delay adding any additional students beyond those who have already returned.
Q. Why is it OK for schools and departments already operating in-person to continue to do so if others are not allowed to move forward?
A. This is a question we have asked health officials as well, and at both the state and local level it was emphasized to us that schools and programs already operating with in-person instruction have demonstrated that they are able to operate safely and should continue because of the benefits they are providing to students. These staff and students have already become familiar with health and safety protocols in place, and evidence from across the nation supports maintaining in-person instruction wherever it is already underway. According to Fresno County Public Health Department’s December 31 direction to local schools, delaying additional in-person instructional groups avoids bringing groups together who have not yet operated under our health and safety guidelines. This direction is also based on a need to focus FCDPH’s resources on community-based mitigation efforts, which are impacted by the addition of students to school campuses around Fresno County because of monitoring and reporting requirements included in school health and safety plans.
Q. Why do plans keep changing?
A. We recognize the need for students to return to campus as soon as possible, and have worked to implement extensive health and safety measures to create a healthy on-site environment for learning. At the same time, we are relying on direction from local health officials to guide the pace at which we return students to campus within the larger context of community-wide COVID conditions. Our recent delay in bringing additional students back on campus is occurring under direction of local health officials who need to focus their work on community-based mitigation efforts, which are administratively impacted by the addition of students to school campuses around Fresno County because of reporting requirements included in school health and safety plans.
Q. Did the Governor also issue new guidance for schools on December 30?
A. The Governor’s joint announcement with the President of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education was related to a proposal aimed at resuming in-person instruction at all schools in California as soon as possible. His proposal, which includes financial incentives that require approval by the legislature, can be viewed online. Additional details about how this proposal impacts schools already operating with in-person instruction (as is the case in Clovis Unified) is expected in mid-January. Of note, this proposal includes additional parameters for regular COVID testing of students and staff which Clovis Unified is already developing.
Q. What about Transportation and Food Service planned to support in-person instruction starting after Winter Break?
A. All transportation schedules will continue that were in place before Winter Break. Schedules are available online. Additional schedules that were to go into effect the week of January 4 will be delayed until at least Feb. 1. All food service schedules and curbside pick- ups in place prior to Winter Break remain in place.
Q. Are Co-Curricular Pods continuing under this new guidance?
A. Programs are continuing to operate under their pre-Winter Break schedules.
Q. What is the status of increased testing and vaccinations?
A. In a December 30 address to the public, the Governor affirmed that vaccinations available to educators are slated to be a part of the second phase of distribution (following Phase 1A - healthcare, law enforcement and residents of care facilities). We will continue to keep employees updated as we learn more about the timeframe that phase “1A” is expected to conclude. In his address, the Governor also committed resources to support schools in the implementation of regular surveillance testing such as that in which Clovis Unified has already participated. Plans for regular, voluntary COVID testing of staff and students are under development that will support our healthy return to campus plans as Fresno County continues to experience high rates of COVID infections.
Q. Will the District have a dashboard that allows the public to monitor COVID cases reported to Clovis Unified?
A. Yes, a dashboard that will report by site/facility the number of positive COVID tests reported to the District is under development and is expected to launch online on our website before mid-January.