Visalia Unified School District students in grades 7 through 12 will return to their classrooms a week after Tulare County declared it has achieved the state’s COVID-19 red tier designation.
In-Person Classes Start March 25
District trustees gave the OK to allow resumption of in-person instruction for secondary students in a unanimous vote Tuesday, March 9. The district has pegged Thursday, March 25 as the day middle- and high-school students will return to classrooms.
VUSD Board President Juan Guerrero said the decision to reopen with COVID protocols in place does not mean the district is done with its response to the ubiquitous spread of coronavirus.
“This pandemic has been horrible,” he said. “We have had to make some very difficult decisions, and we still have more decisions that we are going to have to make that are very difficult.”
Shutdowns Remain Possible
Superintendent Dr. Tamara Ravalin cautioned there will likely be setbacks as students return to campuses.
“We still have to be prepared to go in any direction,” she said. “I’m going to ask you to vote, but knowing that a school could close down, a cohort could close down. We could have a positive test with an athlete and close down a whole varsity or junior varsity team.”
Even with the likelihood that COVID cases will lead to partial shutdowns, Ravalin stressed the district’s preparedness for all eventualities before asking the school board to reopen secondary campuses.
“So, we just have to be prepared to go in any direction, but if the board is willing to entertain a vote to allow us to open grades 7 through 12 one week after the Blueprint for a Safer Economy adjusts Tulare County to the red tier, I think we would be most appreciative,” Ravalin said, chuckling to underline her desire to take a step closer to normality.
Three Days in the Red
The exact reopening date for the district’s middle and high school campuses remains dependent on the county dropping itself into the red tier and remaining there for at least one week. Doing so will require consistently recording fewer than seven new cases of COVID-19 for every 100,000 tests administered. As of Thursday, March 18, Tulare County has maintained red-tier numbers for only three days.
Tulare County was still in the purple tier on March 8, according to data from Tulare County Health and Human Services, recording an average of 8.5 new cases of COVID per 100,000 tests. One week earlier, on March 1, Tulare County’s rate of new cases per day per 100,000 tests was 11.3.
In the three days since entering the red tier on March 17, the county’s number of new COVID cases per 100,000 tests has remained exactly 3.5. In order to reopen VUSD’s secondary campuses, that must continue until March 24.
Not all students will return to campus, with some parents opting to continue online instruction only for their children. For the rest, in-person classes will be held on either a morning or afternoon schedule, with some instruction continuing online.