Some special needs students in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District will return to the classroom next week.
This comes as the district is gearing up for approval to allow elementary school students to come back for in-person learning. Next Wednesday, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District will submit a waiver for in-person learning. So far, 13 schools in San Luis Obispo County have been given the okay to do this.
Meantime, some of the empty desks at Virginia Peterson Elementary School will soon have students come next week.
"They have their hand sanitizer, they have a little fidget cube in case they get fidgety, they have a timer," explained Andrew Wortman, Special Education Teacher. "We provide a face shield if they want to use that with their face mask."
Wortman will welcome back five of his students on Tuesday, marking the first wave of students to return to the classroom in six months.
"Everything has been streamlined so the kids are doing work like they're doing distance learning but they're doing it at school so if there comes a day when someone has a cold or someone is sick, they'll just pick up their Chromebook at home and do it there," Wortman said.
While a waiver is not required for special education students to return to school, school districts can apply for in-person learning at the elementary school level while the county waits to move into the next phase of reopening.
The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is seeking a waiver for TK students through 5th grade.
"We hope for the youngest kids, the Transitional K and K students, for them to begin an a.m./p.m., meaning half-day here for half the class in the morning and half in the afternoon, starting on November 2," said Superintendent Curt Dubost.
If approved, the plan is then to have the 1st and 2nd graders return on November 16, followed by grades 3 through 5.
"Our goal is at each of the six elementaries at each of the grade levels to at least have one in-person class," Dubost said.
Under the waiver, parents would have the option of keeping their child in distance learning at home but it won't be guaranteed that they can keep their current teacher.
Classes will have up to 14 students with two teachers.
The morning and afternoon classes will be sanitized in between.
"I don't think there's any argument to be made that in-person isn't better for most kids, not for all kids. And for high-risk kids and kids that aren't comfortable and parents that are edgy, we have other options so nobody is being forced to go into something that they aren't uncomfortable with," Dubost said.
The final plan will be presented to the school board this coming Tuesday and then be submitted to Public Health the following day.
The Atascadero Unified School District resumed in-person instruction for special education students on Wednesday. The district also plans to apply for a waiver to allow in-person learning for elementary students.