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Fresno Unified School District elementary school students could be among the first to be back in the classroom with their teachers.

The district is planning to apply for a waiver that allow those students to return to school for in-person instruction. Older students would still have distance learning until coronavirus infection rates improve further.

“We’re in the process of discussing implementation with our labor partners and local health experts,” district spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said Friday.

But as to how soon kids could be back in school, Idsvoog said, “We’re early in the waiver process so providing timelines would be premature.”

Still in Purple But Eligible for Waiver

Fresno County is still in the “purple” tier of the state’s reopening plan but has reached a necessary milestone in lowering coronavirus infections, so schools now may apply for waivers to provide in-person instruction for pupils in grades transitional kindergarten through 6, Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino told area superintendents on Friday.

Yovino sent out a message sharing guidelines released by Fresno County public health officials on how to apply for a waiver, which requires consultation with parents and labor partners and publication of the reopening plan on the school website.

The reopening plan, which would outline safety protocols to be followed, and waiver request must be submitted to the county Department of Public Health for review and approval.

“We are all eager to return children to the classroom because we know the most impactful learning comes from teachers interacting in person with students,” Yovino wrote to the superintendents.

Clovis, Central Also Eye Waivers

Clovis Unified also plan to move ahead with a requesting a waiver, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said.

“They released the application Wednesday night and we are applying,” Avants said. The district intends to submit the application by the end of this month, she said.

Central Unified officials likely will discuss Yovino’s message on Monday, spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said. “We haven’t yet applied for the waiver, but I suspect that’ll be discussed early next week as well,” she said.

Under the state’s reopening plan, counties need to have fewer than 14 new cases of coronavirus infections daily per 100,000 residents averaged over a seven-day period for waivers to be considered by the county Public Health Department.

Fresno County hit that milestone this month.

Most schools have been closed since mid-March when the state shut down all nonessential activities in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

All Schools Open by Mid-October?

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer, said during a Friday health briefing that if the county continues to make progress lowering infection rates, students in all grade levels might be back in school by Oct. 13.

Meanwhile, public health officials are working with Immanuel Schools of Reedley, which was slapped with an injunction this week to discontinue in-person instruction. The schools had opened for on-campus teaching in mid-August in defiance of state and local public orders requiring schools in counties with high infection rates to keep their campuses closed and teach via distance learning.

GV Wire reporter Jim Jakobs contributed to this story.

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