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Fresno County to Seek Reopen Waivers for Big Creek, Hume Lake Schools

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Two tiny Sierra mountain schools in eastern Fresno County might get to open for classes after all.

Fresno County Public Health director David Pomaville said Friday that his department next week will ask the California Departments of Public Health and Education to consider allowing in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Big Creek Elementary and Hume Lake Charter School.

“There are some unique circumstances with regard to those two school districts, in their geographic location, the relatively small size — the very small size,” he said, adding that the schools might open with in-person instruction either indoors or outside.

State officials have indicated that they are interested in taking a look at schools such as Big Creek and Hume Lake Charter on a case-by-case basis, “so we want to be sure we have that discussion with them,” Pomaville said.

‘A Week, Not Months’

He said he expects a decision from state officials in “a week, not months.”

Pomaville’s comments came during a semi-weekly media briefing on COVID-19 updates.

Big Creek, a 56-student K-8 elementary school southwest of Huntington Lake, and Hume Lake Charter, a K-12 charter school between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, are the only schools in Fresno County to have requested waivers, he said.

Public Health officials had previously indicated that no waivers would be permitted because of the county’s high rate of coronavirus infections. Under a state mandate, schools must remain closed in counties that are being monitored by the state for COVID-19 infections, and counties must be off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days before schools can reopen.

Making Exceptions

Pomaville said that state officials might decide to issue a “waiver to a waiver” that would allow the two schools to open for in-person instruction.

Officials with Big Creek School and Hume Lake Charter couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Big Creek is home to Southern California-Edison employees who are responsible for the massive Sierra hydroelectric project that provides a significant portion of the state’s power. As such, they are essential workers who can’t stay home to oversee their children while they are on distance learning.

Editor’s Note: The first edition of this story incorrectly stated that Hume Lake Charter was a Christian school. 

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email