For students, teachers and staff in the Lompoc Unified School District, school days for the upcoming year are going to look pretty traditional.
However, while everyone on campus will have to wear a mask indoors, recess and lunch will look much like they did before the pandemic.
Bree Valla, deputy superintendent of the Lompoc Unified School District, says, “Seeing students faces every day, in person, absolutely, that's what everybody is most excited about.”
For the first time since the pandemic started, all students at Lompoc Unified will be able to come on campus at the same time beginning Aug. 16. Teachers will come back for preparations on Aug. 12.
"We will have quite a few first-time students because some families chose to homeschool for kindergarten, because of the format of schooling, so we're looking forward to quite a few new first graders and then of course we always have our new TK and kinder students who are coming to us," Valla said.
Valla says she expects most students to return to campus,
“We think that we'll get back to what our enrollment was pre-pandemic. We think that families are seeing the safety measures that have been put into place and are seeing that school is going to be in person and relatively traditional with some safety precautions of course,” she said.
Families will self-screen before sending students to school every day and the district will sanitize classrooms daily.
Valla says teachers are excited to have students to interact with face-to-face as well as watch them make new friends and collaborate in-person.
“Desks are going to be spaced somewhere but not nearly like they were before, because the new recommendation is that if masked, the physical distancing is not required," Valla said.
Lompoc Unified has just shy of 10,000 students.
They do have an independent study option for families who aren’t comfortable coming back in person.
As for the technology the district used during remote learning, Valla says they’re holding on to it just in case.
Regarding keeping masks on indoors, Valla said, “Recognizing that masks are an inconvenience, but if that means that we get to have kids on campus from, you know the traditional 8:30 to 2:30 school day, then it's an inconvenience that we're willing to deal with.”
Regarding class sizes, Valla explained, “We've hired additional elementary staff this school year to try to keep our class sizes lower in grades four through six.”
For the upcoming year, Valla says parents are worried about academic loss from remote learning, but first and foremost, the health and wellbeing of their children. Therefore, the district invested in new curricula and resources to help.
Valla said, “We have social emotional curriculum for all of our campuses as well as a counselor at each campus that is specifically targeting those social emotional skills so that students are intentionally taught how to navigate their various emotions that they may be feeling, be it anxiety, depression.”
The district is keeping some operations from remote learning, like certain meetings, which Valla says they found to be more effective when done over video.
“Some of our staff meetings that we did district-wide, Zoom was preferred because it was convenient. It allowed our families to have multiple family members attend parent teacher conferences and there wasn't the complication of finding childcare for their younger children.”
The staff is excited to get back to campus and while technology is definitely a tool they’ll be using, Valla says they’re looking forward to more traditional teaching and ensuring students don’t have the same screen time as they did last year.
Lompoc Unified School District is taking continuous enrollment, parents only have to contact the school district to get their children signed up.