Orange County Public Schools Will Return to a New Normal This Fall

March 29, 2021 Updated: March 29, 2021

Orange County public schools are beginning to announce plans for the 2021–22 school year, and for several, they involve a full-time return to classroom learning.

Garden Grove Unified School District is among those with the intention of offering full-time, in-person instruction beginning in the fall semester.

The educational transition is possible due to the state’s updated K–12 Schools Guidance, which was announced March 20. The new set of rules adjusts the necessary distance between students to three feet. Schools were previously required to keep 4 to 6 feet of separation between classmates.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) announced on March 25 that for the 2021–2022 school year, all students will return to full-time, in-person instruction.

But for students in that district, a return to normal will come a little earlier.

SVUSD will begin expanding on-campus instructional time on April 19.

For the district’s elementary schools, this means returning to school full-time for in-classroom instruction; middle and high schoolers will return to campus four days a week.

Full distance learning still remains a viable option during the current year for students not yet looking to return to campus.

SVUSD Superintendent Crystal Turner listed a plethora of safety measures that students will need to follow, including face coverings worn at all times while on campus, three feet of social distancing, mandatory temperature checks, and more.

“All of the safety measures that have been implemented and followed by our students, staff and families have resulted in the low number of cases that we are seeing in our schools, and I’d like to reiterate the importance of continuing to adhere to all safety protocols as our students return to school sites for an additional time,” Turner said a letter to parents.

In the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD), the district says it’s committed to providing both online and five days per week academic models for the 2021–2022 school year, although it’s still in the initial planning phases.

Right now, the district offers an IUSD virtual academy, hybrid, and traditional (five days per week) options for its elementary schools, and the virtual academy and hybrid for its secondary schools.

Irvine Unified was one of the first districts to reopen in-person instruction; the district has offered five days of instruction for its elementary schools since last September.

Although most Orange County schools are offering some form of in-person learning, Anaheim Elementary and Magnolia school districts offer distance learning only. They have plans to return to in-person instruction on April 12, Orange County Department of Education spokesperson Ian Hanigan told The Epoch Times.

Additionally, the Santa Ana Unified School District and Anaheim Union High School District have announced that they’ll continue distance learning until the end of the year. They are the only two districts in the county to do this, Hanigan said.

Asked how teachers and educators felt about returning to in-person classes, Hanigan said that there is probably not a huge consensus either for or against the move, but many have already transitioned back to classrooms.

“I would defer to school employees to share their feelings, and I don’t know that you’ll find a consensus viewpoint. But again, most OC districts offer at least some in-person learning, so a very large number of educators and support staff have already returned to their campuses,” he said.

Public school districts are not the only ones returning to on-campus instruction, as colleges are mulling a return as well.

Officials at Cal State Fullerton, for example, said they’re optimistic about offering 60 to 70 percent of in-person classes for the fall semester.

In a letter to students, President Fram Virjee said the next semester will be almost all in-person instruction, with student services and housing, as long as vaccine distribution continues.

“We will only execute our plans for a fall return if and when all Titans who choose to receive the vaccine have had equitable access to it, and public health guidelines and CSU policy support the transition,” he said in the March 15 letter.

Virjee said that the school urges every student to be vaccinated, but that it wouldn’t be distinctly required, although non-vaccinated students would need to have other precautions taken to go to in-person classes.

“Further, students, faculty and staff who elect not to receive the vaccine will likely be required to undergo regular mandatory COVID-19 testing in order to return to face-to-face teaching, learning, and working,” he said.

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