Selma District Reopens Elementary Grade Classes


Sakshi Palav, Co-Editor in Chief/News Editor/Co-Sport's Editor

The Selma Unified District has been teaching online since late March 2020. However, because the Governing Board approved the district’s plan for reopening elementary schools in February, elementary, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and Special Day Class students officially returned to in person school on Tuesday March 2nd. Since that Tuesday, one grade is returning everyday. So, by March 12th, grades 6th and below will be back in school. 

According to the SUSD Reimagined and Redesigned guideline packet, which can be found on the Selma Unified website, because COVID-19 and the pandemic call for alterations in student schedules and procedures, the district has implemented the In-Person Hybrid Schedule, which means that class will be in person in the morning, and distance learning in the afternoon. Students that choose to stay completely online, will have a different PM schedule. 

Also explained in the SUSD guideline pack is the safety procedures for both staff and students. Staff interactions will be recorded consistently and students will be assigned their own “stable group” which they will go to recess, be in class, and eat lunch with. These preventive measures are to check for potential exposure to COVID-19. Both students and staff are required to wear face coverings/masks that cover their nose, mouth, and chin and screen their temperature via mobile app connected to the school database in order to prevent potential spreading of the virus. Also, recesses will be staggered to keep specific teachers and their stable group from cross contamination. 

All Selma district elementary schools have their personal COVID-19 prevention plan, which can be found on the district website, but they all contain similar safety requirements. One that is consistent through all of them is the emphasis on restock hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Along with students following the six feet apart rule, social distancing and staying sanitary are primary aspects needed to be abided if elementary schools are to stay COVID-19 free. 

SUSD Assistant Superintendent Teresa Wood explained the steps that needed to be taken in order to reopen sixth through kindergarten. 

“We had to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan written and approved by the Fresno County Department of Public Health and a new state agency,” Wood explained. “The Safety Plan had to address numerous items but needed to include individual school COVID-19 Prevention Plans and a completed COVID-19 School Guidance Checklist.”

On top of this, the Case Rate numbers, which is the COVID-19 positives per the 100,000 population, had to be at 25 or below for more than five days in order for elementary schools to be allowed to open. On February 16th, the case rates dropped to 22.8 and stayed there for five days. While the district was waiting seven days to get their Safety Plan approved, more cases dropped, which allowed the district to schedule the reopening on March 2nd. 

So far, the elementary grade reopenings have been successful. This is due to the fact that the phased-in approach allows the school administration to fix a problem, if it surfaces, before the next grade level comes back. 

As for secondary schools such as Selma’s middle and high school, more time and planning is required to get the reopening of them approved. This is due to the immense number of students that go to each school and the schedules containing different classes every period. Because of the size and constant class changing, the ability to pinpoint or minimize the spread of the virus is extremely difficult. 

Wood also explained how because of the size and complexities of middle and high school classes, the Case Rate numbers need to be lower than the number needed to reopen elementary schools. 

“We have to adhere to the state and county mandates,” Wood said. “For secondary schools, the Case Rate has to be at seven or below.” 

Nonetheless, the elementary grades slowly coming back to school are being handled with numerous safety precautions in order to protect students and staff from possible exposure. As COVID-19 cases slowly fluctuate towards lower numbers, the reopening of schools seems more promising.