Los Al Unified School District receives waiver to allow in-person education in elementary schools

Dear Los Alamitos Unified School District Families and Community Members,

We received notification this afternoon that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) have approved the CDPH elementary waiver we submitted for our six elementary schools.

As part of our submission, we requested approval from the CDPH and the OCHCA to allow both our general education and special education SDC elementary classes to return to in-person instruction under the elementary waiver. It saddens me to report that the approval letter we received this afternoon from OCHCA stated the following: “Special Education classes will have separate guidance forthcoming from the State and are ineligible for this waiver process.” We have been tirelessly advocating on behalf of our special education students and families to allow an in-person option or waiver. Immediately, I contacted the OCHCA regarding our elementary SDC special education classes. The OCHCA confirmed that the CDPH elementary waiver does not apply to any of our elementary SDC classes. They reiterated that the State is expected to release specific guidance for special education and SDC classes soon, but the OCHCA could not provide me with an exact date on when that guidance will be forthcoming. Until further State guidance on special education is released, our SDC classes will be forced to remain in a distance learning setting until the county is off the State Monitoring Watchlist for 14 consecutive days.

As shared last Friday, we will begin the start of the school year on August 31 in a distance learning setting for all levels (elementary, middle and high school) for students enrolled in the traditional schooling pathway. With the approval of our CDPH elementary waiver, elementary schools will transition into our hybrid setting beginning Tuesday, September 8, 2020 (after the Labor Day holiday).

At this time, we do not have an answer on how long we will remain in the hybrid setting at the elementary level. We are committed to remaining in the hybrid setting at a minimum of four (4) weeks which would be through at least October 2. We will use the time to evaluate the conditions in the county and the successful execution of our systems, routines, and procedures detailed within our School Opening and Safety Plan.

We are also closely monitoring OCHCA’s dashboard on the various metrics related to the State Monitoring Watchlist – click here for the desktop link or here for the mobile link. It requires three consecutive days of data for a county to get on, or off, the State Monitoring list. Currently, Orange County’s data meets the State criteria which requires a Case Rate per 100,000 to be below 100 and a Testing Positive Percentage below 8%. Orange County must meet the criteria for three consecutive days before it can be considered “off” the State Monitoring list. Once Orange County is off the list, the county must be off the list for 14 consecutive days before any in-person instruction can occur at McAuliffe Middle School, Oak Middle School and Los Alamitos High School.

Yesterday OCHCA reported a case rate of 98.6 and a testing positive percentage of 5.9%. The information posted today on the OCHCA dashboard reports a second day decline with a case rate of 96.6 and a testing positive percentage of 5.7%. Today, CDPH updated the County Monitoring List reflecting that Orange County had fallen below the required Case Rate and Testing Positivity Percentage threshold. We have been informed that the CDPH notes Orange County is on day one of meeting the required threshold before it can be removed from the list. The Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) reached out to the OCHCA for clarification regarding when the 14-day countdown could begin for Orange County schools. After confirming with CDPH, it was indicated that the 14-day countdown could begin on Saturday, August 22 (assuming the data continues in a similar trend).

This is lot of information to process and I do not want any of us to get ahead of the science and data metrics. As stated previously, any return to in-person instruction will be made based on metrics, science, and guidelines specific to schools dictated by CDPH and OCHCA; we will not act to return students to our school sites without the proper science and guidance from our state and county public health officials. However, I wanted to share the information with you as some of you have already inquired about this data, possible dates, scenarios etc.

For now, we will wait to make any further decisions on in-person instruction at the middle and high school levels until we can determine if Orange County has indeed officially been removed from the State Monitoring list.

Our Los Al family is looking forward to welcoming you and your children back to school on August 31. I pray that you and your families are safe and healthy.

Kind regards,
Andrew Pulver, Ed.D

This article was released by Los Alamitos Unified School District.