CUSD sets the stage for a “good year”

by Andrew Alonzo | [email protected]

The Claremont Unified School District returns to class on Wednesday, August 31, and teachers and administrators are brimming with excitement.

Although this is the second year in a row since COVID-19 students will return to all 10 district campuses for in-person instruction on the first day, many agreed it felt a little more normal.

“Everyone is waking up from the past two years under a pandemic umbrella, so everyone is really excited,” said Felipe Delvasto, San Antonio High School Principal and CUSD’s Senior Alternative Education Coordinator. “I’m just thrilled to have some kind of normality in our schools again. Children should feel normal. Parents need to feel normal and safe. Some kind of normality is what we need.

Superintendent Jim Elsasser, who joined CUSD in July after two years with the Placentia-Yorba Linda District, echoed Delvasto. “There’s excitement in the air because this comeback seems as close to a normal comeback as we’ve had in the past few years.”

Mountain View Elementary kindergarten teacher Kristen McClellan (pictured at the top of this page) has a rainbow-themed class this year. MAIL photo/Andrew Alonzo

Pandemic protocols are different this year. Parents can pop into class for special occasions and students will no longer have to fill out COVID-19 symptom sheets daily before school.

Elsasser said the district will follow the county public health department’s lead in handling COVID guidelines and exposures.

“My executive office and I have a call with the superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and Dr. [Barbara] Ferrer from the LA County Public Health Department every other Thursday morning to hear the latest updates,” Elsasser said.

Under current LACDPH guidelines, on-campus masking will be optional — but still strongly recommended — and positive test results will no longer need to be reported to the department’s outbreak tracking database, “unless there is a cluster of three or more linked cases within a 14-day period.

In the event of an outbreak, frequent testing of all potentially linked individuals will be implemented.

Also new this year, students who come into contact with an infected person but want to stay in school can do so. A “close contact” student must remain asymptomatic, be monitored for symptoms for 10 days, test negative at least once three to five days after exposure, and again six to nine days after exposure. Students unable to meet these requirements or wear a mask after exposure will be required to stay home for 10 days after potential exposure.

“With the recent approval of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine for children ages 12-15, a national COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students in grades 7-12 could begin in July 2023,” according to new county guidelines. .

CUSD will continue to offer its independent study program, Claremont Alternative Learning Model, to high school students.

“Elementary kids, we think they benefit more from being in person, so the [independent studies] The program is only offered to high schools,” Delvasto said.

Claremont High School students will see Brittany Sornborger, a uniformed student resource officer with the Claremont Police Department on campus on August 31.

“City staff worked with my staff on a project [memorandum of understanding] surrounding the functions of the SRO which I believe will be handed over to the city council and our school board in the coming weeks,” Elsasser said.

Elsasser said mental health continues to be a “top priority.”

“We know it’s hard to answer [students’] academic needs when they are not in good mental health,” he said. “And so that will continue to be part of the focus of our work this year.”

Primary school teachers have been busy setting up their classrooms ahead of Wednesday’s big comeback. On Tuesday, the COURIER moved on to Mountain View Elementary School.

In Class 10, kindergarten teacher Kristen McClellan (pictured at the top of this page) finished decorating her classroom with a rainbow theme and was cutting out 24 welcome cards for kids. students. She said the feelings before the first day are usually a mix of nervousness and excitement.

“It’s always nerve-wracking getting to know new kids and starting over after a full summer break,” she said. “But then exciting because you get to know the kids and get to know new family members.”

At the other end of campus, Maureen Free, a sixth-grade teacher, was dragging stacks of books onto student desks.

“I always tell my kids it’s like Christmas Eve [for teachers]”, Free said. “I arrived a week ago on Monday and it was just a pleasure to be back. I always greet everyone with ‘Happy New Year’.

Maureen Free, a sixth grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, slides books onto student desks in preparation for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. MAIL photo/Andrew Alonzo

When asked what she was most looking forward to, Free was emotional.

“Just being together. We all miss it,” she said, holding back tears. “We miss the kids. But just this fullness of the school year, this hope that comes with the first day of school, I’m very excited about it.

Chaparral Elementary Principal Ann O’Connor agreed with her colleagues that this year seems closer to normal.

“This one feels like we’re lucky enough to play before school and welcome the kids, mix [kids] and still safe and taking precautions, but coming back to breathing a little easier,” O’Connor said. “I just feel comfortable in our surroundings.”

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