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Most VC schools to begin 2020-21 year online, Ojai Unified undecided

With cases of COVID-19 surging in Ventura County and throughout California, most local school districts and charter schools have decided to begin the 2020-2021 school year entirely using distance learning without bringing students back to campuses. 
However, Ojai Unified School District still plans to hold in-person classes using a hybrid system at this time, Superintendent Tiffany Morse told the Ojai Valley News. 

 

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Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stanley Mantooth sent a letter to Ventura County Dr. Robert Levin on July 15 explaining this decision. Mantooth wrote: “In recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that bringing students back to campus at the start of the year — even on a limited basis — would pose unacceptable health risks to both students and school employees, many of whom are in high-risk groups.”
Ventura County schools had been hoping to begin the year with a mix of in-class and distance learning, but the worsening coronavirus crisis has increased the risks of reopening campuses, even on a limited basis. Nearly all of the school districts and charter schools in the county, as well as the Ventura County Office of Education, have jointly agreed this is the best course of action at this time. Levin has endorsed the plan to begin the school year with distance learning in the interest of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. 

 

Mantooth said: “Keeping campuses closed is not a decision that any of us take lightly. We want nothing more than to bring all students back to class where their educational, social and developmental needs can be best met. However, we cannot in good conscience reopen all of our campuses at a time when the coronavirus is surging in our state and our region.”
In addition to OUSD, Ventura Unified, Moorpark Unified and Mesa Union school district are still evaluating how they will begin the new school year and have not yet announced their plans.
OUSD Board Clerk Kevin Ruf said: “Given the significance of the decision, I support … taking more time to make a final decision (of whether or not to move fully online).”
The OUSD Board will discuss the latest plans for Ojai students to return to school at its July 22 meeting. The agenda for that meeting will be released by Friday, July 17.
 
An hour after the Ventura County Office of Education sent a press release July 16 about many of the school districts' leaders decision to start school solely online, OUSD's superintendent sent the following letter to OUSD families and staff:
"As you may have read, the Ventura County Office of Education today released a list of school districts in Ventura County that will move to a distance-learning only model in the new school year.
"We too are concerned about the increase of COVID rates in our county and the safety of all students and staff. We are also concerned about the impact that full distance-learning may have on student learning, working families, and our students who need extra support in areas such as Special Education. 
"We will be discussing the options for fall reopening in light of these multiple concerns at our school board meeting on July 22 at 5:30 pm. Ultimately, our plan will be based on careful consideration for the safety of our students, staff, families, and community members.
"If you would like to submit a public comment to be heard at the board meeting, you may do so here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CCfKeZXXuRb167DjQXSDjggyD9OS3u9wFDiOcg1ESec/viewform?edit_requested=true). You can also watch the board meeting at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEoJXGz1up7WOIlEokVnghQ.
"These times call for us to remain diligent to public health concerns and make the best decisions possible for all of our stakeholders. There are no easy decisions about the return to learning in the fall. We appreciate your patience as we work collaboratively with our families and staff to make the best choices possible and seek to create solutions to provide as many flexible options as possible."
 The July 15 letter to Dr. Levin, signed by Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth and 19 school superintendents in Ventura County — including those four who have since said they are still considering the question of how to reopen campuses — reads:
"Dear Dr. Levin,
"The 2020-2021 school year is scheduled to begin in just a few weeks in Ventura County. The leaders of our local school districts and our charter schools have been working feverishly to prepare for the possibility of bringing students back to our campuses, which have been largely closed since mid-March. Most schools had been expecting to begin the school year with a mix of in-class and distance learning that would reduce the number of students on campus at a given time to allow for required social distancing.
"However, in recent weeks, it has become increasingly clear that bringing back students to campus at the start of the year — even on a limited basis — would pose unacceptable health risks to both students and school employees, many of whom are in high-risk groups. As you know, the current surge in coronavirus cases has prompted a rollback of reopening plans for businesses in Ventura County and throughout California. If dining in a restaurant is currently considered unsafe, it is unrealistic to believe that bringing students back to class would be any safer.
"Based on the current reality, all of the school districts in Ventura County have agreed that the best course of action is to begin the 2020-21 school year without bringing students back to campuses. Instruction would be provided entirely via distance learning until such time as it is deemed safe to start reopening campuses. This is not a position we arrived at easily. We are very aware of the effects that this has on students, the hardships it creates for families and the impact it. has on the local economy. However, we cannot in good conscience, create an environment that would surely contribute to the spread of the coronavirus at a time when it is on the rise in our communities.
"As educational leaders, we are united in our belief that this is the best way forward. Having your endorsement of this plan as the county's Public Health Officer will be of great value in helping the community accept that it is necessary. Therefore, we respectfully ask you to provide us with a letter or other communication affirming that you approve starting the 2020-2021 school year with distance learning and without students returning to campus until it is safe to do so. Some of our districts need to publicly announce their plans by this Friday, so we are asking for your guidance by tomorrow, Thursday, July 15.
"Thank you for your leadership during this extraordinarily difficult time and please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this in greater detail."

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