OC Elementary Schools apply for waiver to offer in-person instruction

The majority of California schools will offer online instruction for the fall semester, but the guidelines from Governor Newsom offer an opt out for elementary schools if they apply for a waiver.

Some elementary schools in Orange County have applied for a waiver to offer in-person instruction for the fall semester. The requirements for schools to reopen with a waiver is not yet available, but Governor Newsom said elementary schools need to apply through their local health departments.

St. John's Lutheran School in Orange is one of the schools that applied for a waiver. The Principal, Jake Hollatz, said the school applied on Monday.

"We felt like it was important for our parent community to have face to face learning so we surveyed our parents and about 73 percent want face to face so we went ahead and submitted that waiver to the county and  heard back that they are working with the state levels as well. We hope for a positive outcome with that," said Hollatz.

Hollatz said teachers were also surveyed, and the "majority" are in favor of reopening schools and teaching in person with rules in place. If the school is approved, teachers will be required to space out students in the classroom, and keep the windows open. Each classroom has its own AC unit with filters to keep the air fresh and clean. The school has a supply of wipes, and hand sanitizer and will also have mobile hand washing stations. The school also set up tents to offer outdoor learning areas.  

"The children's social and emotional growth really needs to happen amongst their peers. We  believe we can give them a high quality online education, but without their peers, their social and emotional growth is not going to continue growing and we really want our students to be well rounded, grow spiritually, socially, emotionally and academically," said Hollatz.  

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Hollatz acknowledged criticism about the difficulty in keeping elementary-aged children socially distanced and ensuring masks.

"Our students are ready to do what they need to do to get back. We believe we can follow all of the Governor's orders with safety precautions, mask precautions, and our students and parents have indicated that they will put up with a barrier across their face to be able to see their friends and get back to school," said Hollatz.  

Hollatz said parents will be given an option, and if they don't want to send their kids to school, they can participate in their "robust online program."

The fall semester for St. John's starts August 18. 

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