Fresno Unified schools are still closed to in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic, but small groups of students who are homeless or English learners will be returning to school starting Monday.
Elementary, middle, and high schools across the district will open their doors to students who are deemed of the highest need, but they will be limited to small groups of not more than 10 students, spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said.
In addition to students who are homeless and learning English, special education students will be returning to campus, she said. Idsvoog said about 750 students — out of the district’s more than 70,000 enrollments — are expected to be back at school.
But they won’t be face to face with their teachers in person. The students will still be engaged in distance learning and will be connecting with their teachers and fellow classmates through online classes, using the school’s Wi-Fi, Idsvoog said.
“To be clear, this is to provide them a safe place to access internet and meals while they participate in distance learning,” she said.
Groups Limited to 10
The district will start off with one small group at elementary schools and two groups at secondary schools. Transportation will be provided to those students who need it, and school staff will be on hand to supervise the students while they are on site, she said.
Fresno Unified schools have been closed to in-person instruction since March 13 in an attempt to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
The district has applied for a waiver from the Fresno County Department of Public Health to reopen elementary schools, Idsvoog said.
That waiver request was submitted two weeks ago, she said.
Seeking A Waiver
The state is requiring that the waiver request include a reopening plan detailing how the district will test students and staff for the coronavirus, maintain social distancing, sanitize school facilities, and deal with any outbreaks of the virus.
Under current rules schools and districts can request waivers even when a county is in tier 1, otherwise known as the “purple” tier, in the state’s reopening plan. When a county moves from tier 1 to tier 2 and remains in the red tier for several weeks, schools can begin reopening to older students.
Fresno County moved from the purple tier to the red tier at the end of September when coronavirus case and testing rates improved sufficiently. But earlier this week, health officials announced that the county’s testing rate had declined and was back in the purple tier, even as the entire county remained in the red tier.
Officials expressed concern that rising infection rates could put the county back into the purple tier, which would force a shutdown of businesses again and delay school reopenings.
County public health officials will update the news media Friday afternoon on a teleconference call on infection and testing rates.