Waivers allow SLO County private elementary schools to reopen classrooms

Sep 3, 2020

While most local students started the 2020/2021 school year with online learning, 13 private elementary schools around San Luis Obispo County have been granted waivers to allow in-person instruction.

Valley View Adventist Academy in Arroyo Grande is one of a handful of local private schools that have reopened in-person classroom learning.

Principal Chris Perez said he decided to apply for his school to re-open because distance learning was proving difficult for the school's parents, teachers, and students.

“A lot of our younger students struggled to keep their attention at home," Perez said. "The social aspect was very difficult for kids, and to even keep their attention on Zoom was another thing.”

Perez’s school had to come up with a plan to meet safety guidelines from the state. Now, classes have 14 or fewer students, desks are spaced apart, cleaning has been stepped up and students are having to adhere to social distancing.

Every teacher and student is also wearing a mask.

“Although the guidance says kindergarten through second [grade] don't have to," Perez said. "But we are trying to be extra cautious.”

Perez says although classroom learning looks a bit different this year, the benefits of in-person learning helps both students and parents.

“One of the biggest things for sure I know for parents is they get to send their kids to a good, safe environment and they can go back to work,” Perez said.

SLO County Public Health spokesperson Michelle Shoresman said so far, the county department hasn't denied any school that's applied.

“We’ve just only received waiver applications from private schools," Shoresman said. "They are very stringent requirements, so really only a small number of our students are able to receive in-person instruction.”

Shoresman says out of the county's 35,000 K-12 students, only about 1,300 are attending classes on their school’s campus, but other schools are able to still apply. She said she's just not sure when or if public schools will.

“ ’m sure that schools are doing the best they can to teach students right now in the formats they’ve set up," Shoresman said. "Right now we can continue to receive applications, but if the state tells us otherwise, we might have to change that process at some point.”