SLO County public schools reopening under red tier

Nov 3, 2020

As many schools throughout the state remain shuttered due to COVID-19, San Luis Obispo County public schools are allowing more students for in-person instruction this week. 

San Luis Obispo County is currently in the state's red tier, which means public schools can reopen for in-person instruction. But not all students are returning right away, and classrooms will look a lot different as the pandemic continues.

“I’ve been in education for over 20 years," Jennifer Gaviola, deputy superintendent for Paso Robles Unified School District. "We’ve never done school this way and neither have your teachers.”

Public schools in the county are reopening under individual plans, allowing more students on campus while maintaining some online learning.

“It was a good middle ground, [but] it probably upset a lot of people," Gaviola said. "As [Paso Robles School District] Superintendent DuBost always says, a good compromise is probably going to make half the people mad and half the people happy.”

Gaviola said staff will be tested regularly, students will be in masks, and everyone will get their temperatures checked daily. Right now it’s only elementary students returning, with plans to bring middle and high school back in winter. 

“People say all the time hope is not a strategy," Gaviola said. "But we are very hopeful that we are going to be able to open in January.”

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District has been slowly phasing in-person instruction, but is still deciding on a plan for all students.

Assistant Superintendent Kimberly McGrath says pre-kindergarten and elementary students returned Monday. 

“Before they come on campus, they do a self health check with their families," McGrath said. "So the family checks to make sure they don’t have any fever or symptoms.”

McGrath said while all parents can opt out of in-person instruction this school year, plans are in the works to allow all students to come back on campus in some capacity starting January.

Those plans are expected to be discussed and decided on November 17 at the district’s school board meeting. 

“We really want our students back in person," McGrath said. "We need to do so in a way that provides for the safety of all individuals involved.”

Both school districts said reopening plans can change depending on county-wide COVID numbers.