Some SLO County elementary schools seek waivers to reopen campuses

Jul 30, 2020

Some elementary schools in San Luis Obispo County are now filing paperwork trying to get permission to reopen for in-person classes in the fall. It involves asking for a waiver from the county public health department.

“Over the past week, we have received several interest applications from local elementary schools wishing to pursue a waiver,” said SLO County’s superintendent of schools, James Brescia.

“Because SLO County is on California's COVID-19 County Monitoring List, the state’s public health department has banned in-person school instruction locally,” according to the county health department. “However, it allows local health officers to grant waivers to elementary schools for in-person instruction when requested by a local superintendent.”

Same goes for private, parochial and charter schools. But, the county says, the school must have teachers, parents and community organization on board.

At this week’s county briefing, officials stressed the waiver program is only for elementary school-aged classes.

“Science tells us that they are much less at risk for getting the disease, for passing it to each other, for passing it to staff and teachers, and to become very sick with the disease,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, SLO County public health official.

But Borenstein said if a school campus does reopen to students, those in the third grade and up should wear masks. And in order to get a waiver, a school has to have a well-laid-out plan for hygiene practices, physical distancing, health screenings and more.

County school officials said if parents don’t want to send their kids to elementary schools that have reopened for in-person classes, they don’t have to.

“In our case, we would still offer a virtual learning program,” said Kimberly McGrath with the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. “We would keep both programs running.”

“We, too, would be able to offer both a distance learning and in-person [option],’ said Kristina Benson, superintendent of the Shandon school district. “It’s a little more challenging with the size of the district that we're at, but we would strive to do both.”