IE school district ready to reopen classrooms if granted waiver despite county not meeting requirements

District officials in Lucerne Valley say they feel they're ready to reopen, but whether the state grants them an exception is still up in the air.
LUCERNE VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- At Lucerne Valley Elementary School in the High Desert, classes are scheduled to begin online this week, although district officials say they feel they're ready to start bringing students back into the classroom twice a week if the state grants them a waiver.

"We would expect about eight to 10 kids in a classroom, that's it, two days a week," said Peter Livingston, Lucerne Valley Unified School District superintendent. "Then they would be doing their instruction from home on other days."

Under certain circumstances, California schools may be able to get a waiver to bring kids back into the classroom. Schools in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list can apply for waivers that would allow them to conduct in-person learning if they meet certain health requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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California public health leaders on Monday outlined guidelines for how some elementary schools across the state may return to in-person instruction.

Schools and counties whose COVID-19 case rates are more than 200 cases per 100,000 people will not be considered for the waiver.

Livingston said Lucerne Valley has only about 55 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which puts them way below San Bernardino County's average of 238 cases per 100,000. The county number is still too high to get a waiver, but Livingston feels his district should be given an exception.

"Our county's been providing us with data to our district boundaries," Livingston said. "Our district covers about 750 square miles out here in the High Desert, and literally almost one person per square mile, so you can easily see we can socially distance out here."

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Heading back-to-school will look different this year due to COVID-19. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new rules in July ahead of the fall semester.

In Colton, schools are getting ready to reopen Wednesday, online only, however.

District officials feel there are still too many cases in the community to try to bring students back to the classroom.

Back in Lucerne Valley, district officials said they feel they're ready to reopen, but whether the state grants them an exception is still up in the air.

"My hope is that the county looks at each area locally, and the state does as well, and doesn't lump us together in one-size-fits-all in the largest county in the United States," Livingston said.

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