Wildomar charter schools seeks to be classified as day care to reopen classrooms

A school official believes that by applying for a child-care license, the school can open to students as a day care.
WILDOMAR, Calif. (KABC) -- A Wildomar charter school is forging ahead with plans to resume in-person learning despite orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom that schools in counties on the state COVID-19 watch list can't reopen without a waiver.

"We've got to do whatever we can for our children," said Sycamore Academy Charter School executive director Barbara Hale. "That's what this is about."

Eyewitness New obtained an email Hale sent out to school staff on July 22, in which she wrote that after reviewing the governor's updates she doesn't believe there is any official mandate to close schools. And Hale believes that by applying for a child-care license, she will still be able to allow the school to be open to students as a day care.

"The children need the school," said Hale. "They need to be with mandated reporters. They need to be with people trained to teach, trained to do occupational therapy, trained to do speech services.

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"This is not a battle. We're doing our job by taking care of our kids," Hale said.

Hale said there are three options for students to continue their studies when classes resume at Sycamore Academy Charter School in Wildomar on Aug. 24.

For parents who are uncomfortable sending their children back to class, they can continue distanced learning from home by using Chromebooks provided by the school. Another option would be to use home study packets, and then spend up to 90 minutes per week of remote time with a teacher. A third option would be for students to return to the classroom that would be operating as a day care.

Hale said each classroom would be limited to 14 students. And she says the school is making several other changes because of the pandemic.

"We've bought extra sinks to encourage hand-washing often," Hale said. "We have hand sanitizer; we have face masks and face shields for every staff member and every student."

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Riverside County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser responded to our request for comment with the following statement:

"What the school is doing is illegal, and while it is a viewpoint some schools in Riverside County have embraced, it has no basis in jurisprudence.

"The opinion of our county counsel is that the state's guidance has the full force and effect of law, is mandatory, and applies to public and private schools equally. Should these schools reopen, we would refer them to the state for enforcement."

Eyewitness News asked Hale how she would respond to the governor or county officials if they told her what she was attempting to do was not allowed.

"They can come and talk to my families. Because I'm under the impression that our job is to provide child care to the extent possible, to educate the students with rigorous education, to provide as much in person or face-to-face time as possible," Hale said. "I think I'm checking every single one of the boxes with what we're doing."

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