Santa Ana school campuses will stay closed to start school year

On Monday, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4-1 to recommend opening campuses next month without masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, but the decision is not binding on any of the county's districts.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Officials with the Santa Ana Unified School District said Tuesday that they will pivot entirely to distance learning to start the upcoming school year in August due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

"During these challenging times, the safety of our school community continues to be our top priority. While we hope at some point to have our students attend our schools alongside their classmates and teachers, now is not the time,'' Superintendent Jerry Almendarez said. "Meanwhile, we are working to develop a rigorous distance learning plan that will allow students to continue their education at home.''

"We want to proceed with extreme caution as we move forward with our efforts to offer a robust education,'' Board of Education President Rigo Rodriguez said.

"Making the decision now to shift to a virtual education model gives the district more time to make sure our teachers are fully prepared, our parents are well informed, and our students have access to devices and internet needed for us to deliver the highest quality service during this time,'' he added.

On Monday, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4-1 to recommend opening campuses next month without masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, but the decision is not binding on any of the county's districts.

The green light to reopen Orange County campuses without requiring face masks concerns many parents.

The moments leading up to a vote on recommendations for schools in Orange County to reopen grew tense outside the OC Board of Education meeting on Monday in Costa Mesa.

Demonstrators against the use of masks at schools were happy to hear the board's 4-1 vote to recommend in-person education without a requirement for physical distancing or masks.

Also Tuesday, the superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District recommended that campuses in the district remain closed for the beginning of the school year due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County.

Superintendent Brian McDonald said he wants the district's 23 schools to begin instruction on Aug. 17, but with a 100% distance-learning model.

"All of us would like to see students back in school when it's safe to do so. But Los Angeles County has recorded a surge in new cases in the last week, with a 9% rate of positive cases,'' McDonald wrote in a letter to the PUSD community. "We cannot and will not take chances with the health and safety of our students and staff. I plan to bring a recommendation to the Board of Education at a special meeting on July 16 that Pasadena Unified open in a 100% distance learning model on August 17.''
McDonald said the district has been preparing for such a possibility, and will continue to monitor and evaluate public health conditions and guidelines for a possible to return to in-person learning on campus. The district's school board previously announced the school year would begin Aug. 17 with a combination of in-person and distance learning.

The PUSD comprises more than 16,700 students in a 76-square mile area that includes Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said LAUSD campuses will remain closed when classes resume next month.

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City News Service contributed to this report.
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