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April 19, 2021

PVUSD’s youngest students returning to class after spring break

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday paved the way for its youngest students to return to class after spring break.

Under the plan, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students will continue distance learning from 8:45-11:45am every day. 

First graders will continue distance learning from 9am-noon Monday-Friday.

All of these students will be separated into two groups–called cohorts–with one attending in-person classes from 1-2:30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other will come during that time period on Thursdays and Fridays. 

Schools are required to publicly post their Covid-19 safety plan, which has been approved by the district, as well as teachers’ and school employees’ unions.

Teachers are required to complete an online symptom survey daily before coming to work.

The plan includes twice-monthly Covid-19 testing for teachers and students. 

In addition, schools throughout the district have upgraded their ventilation systems, disinfected classrooms, purchased personal protective equipment, thermal scanners and hand-washing stations and changed bus routes to ease the transition.

The district has also hired additional custodial staff to help with the necessary sanitation duties.

The plan comes as Santa Cruz County has reduced its numbers of active cases to 8.6 per 100,000, said PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.

The return to in-person learning will come with a significant number of Covid-19 safety measures. All students and staff must wear face masks, and will be spaced in classrooms to allow for social distancing. There will be almost no eating while on campus.

Staff, teachers and students must have their temperatures taken when they enter campus, a task made possible by a kiosk that gives an instant result.

The plan was forged in part by a survey of 102 teachers, 52 percent of whom said they are concerned about returning to class, but are willing to do so. A total of 28.4 percent said they would not return to class willingly.

District officials say that a total of 2,432 employees will have received a Covid-19 vaccine by Feb. 28.

In other action, the trustees approved a proposal to fly a rainbow flag over PVUSD buildings, which Trustee Jennifer Schacher says will be a way to support LGBTQ+ students. The flag is a symbol of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“No student should be afraid to come to school because of who they are, because of what they believe, the color of their skin, who they might fall in love with, who they identify with,” Schacher said. “ We should have a safe place in schools to be one of those safe places.”

The approval aligns with a similar one made by the city of Watsonville in January to fly the rainbow flag over governmental buildings.

“I can tell you that we have a vibrant community of queer and trans students, and it means so much to them to be recognized and to be acknowledged and to be told that their identities matter,” said Jen Salinas-Holz, a PVUSD technology support technician who also serves as advisor for four school Gay-Straight alliance clubs.

The flags will fly during LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June, Harvey Milk Day on May 22 and National Coming Out Day Oct. 11.

The trustees also approved a plan to name the Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education (WASCAE) after Rhea DeHart, the former PVUSD teacher, school board member and community activist who died in August 2019.

Among other things, DeHart was instrumental in the formation of Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, the union that supports district educators.

“She was a leader on the move,” said WASCAE Director Nancy Bilicich. 

The Rhea DeHart Memorial Wing at the Towers at 242 Green Valley Road, will be unveiled at a time when public gatherings are allowed under Covid-19 restrictions, Bilicich said.

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