Monday was the first day kindergarteners and first graders could go onto campus at Clarence Ruth Elementary School in Lompoc.
But the first day looked a little different - parents could walk their kids up to the gates but had to say “good luck” from the sidewalk.
Bree Valla, Lompoc Unified School District Deputy Superintendent, was excited to see “those first-day jitters that you see when they’re walking in, even though it’s March!”
She went on to describe the happiness of the teachers, all of whom are now teaching from campus unless sick.
Ursula Ramos, a parent of a kindergartener, described her mixed feelings.
“I feel great. I’m a little scared. There’s still that worry, still that scare that COVID could come home, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for my daughter’s education,” Ramos said.
The morning cohort attended class from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., and the afternoon arrived at noon and stayed until 2:30 p.m.
The day custodian and teachers wiped down the classrooms and bathrooms in between cohorts. The night custodians will do a deep clean and use a fogger on the bathrooms in the evening.
The students and staff follow red dots on the ground during the school day to keep socially distant.
There are no temperature checks, but Principal Susie Reilly said, “What we ask them to do, what all families to do, is screen at home, so we provided videos in English and Spanish on how to do that.”
Students bring their own supplies and receive water bottles and school materials individually, so they do not have to touch common surfaces like drinking fountains. Additionally, classes go to the bathroom as a whole and only two students are allowed inside at a time.
“[In] order to keep stable cohorts and to minimize cross-contamination between classrooms, students will only be going out to recess with their classmates,” Valla said.
The school is only allowing a maximum of 16 students per classroom.
Principal Reilly reported there were about 25 teachers on campus and about 170 students per cohort. In total, there were about 350 students participating on campus, out of around 500.
The teachers will conduct both in-person and remote learning by teaching with a laptop or video camera in front of them. They have to keep the six-foot distance at all times.
The nature of the cohort system means parents have to drop off and pick up their children in the two-hour instruction period. That can be difficult for working parents or parents with children attending different schools.
“Right now, I’m not working currently. If I was, yes, it would. Yes, it would [be difficult], tremendously,” Ramos said.
Grades second through third will return to campus on Monday the 15th, and fourth through sixth will come back on March 22.