Plan is contingent on widespread COVID-19 testing availability and Yolo County moving out of the purple tier
On Jan. 19 and Jan. 21, the Davis School Board held meetings to establish parameters for bringing students back to campus. In a statement released on Jan. 22, Davis Joint Unified School District Superintendent (DJUSD) John A. Bowes explained the conditions which must be fulfilled for Davis high school students to return safely to campus.
Among the conditions under the DJUSD’s control, Bowes lists COVID-19 testing, social distancing, filters with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values of 13 (MERV-13), air purifiers and various other safety protocols. DJUSD Public Information Officer Maria Clayton described the conditions outside of the school district’s control.
“There’s certain things that we have the ability to control,” Clayton said. “We’re ticking our way through the list—making sure all of our classrooms are fitted with air purifiers, making sure that the social distancing is possible with the desks and tables and doing all the disinfection that needs to happen. But as far as when the rollout of the vaccination for staff and how the county performs with the community spread of the virus, those are things outside our control.”
Since Thanksgiving, some students with urgent needs have been brought back to campus, Clayton explained.
“Small cohorts have been in place even while the district has been in the purple tier. There is the ability for schools to open for small cohort learning,” Clayton said. “Under 16 individuals can be in a cohort. That includes the teacher. We have limited that to students that have been identified as having urgent needs. It’s been invite-only, and it’s been asking the students that we are tracking who are not engaged or for whatever reason have not been successful through distance learning.”
Meeting these requirements is especially important since vaccines likely won’t be available to most children and youths until late spring and summer. Although Pfizer and Moderna have started researching the vaccine’s effects in children as young as age 12, a vaccine for children under age 16 has not yet been approved.
Clayton emphasized that the reopening plan would not proceed until all the parameters were met.
“Everyone is looking forward to the time when kids can come back to campus,” Clayton said. “Everyone would like things to return to normal—there’s absolutely no question about it. Both students and teachers want to be back in the classroom, but until those conditions exist, there is not a possibility to do that, and we’re working our way toward that.”
The process of devising these parameters involved many “stakeholders,” according to Clayton.
“It’s been an incredible stakeholder-heavy process, where we’ve brought different ideas before the community, the staff, the parent community and the different advisory groups of the school system to vet different ideas,” Clayton said. “So it’s been a slower process in some ways than in other school districts, but it’s been a much more inclusive process for developing different ideas.”
Clayton also described the benefits of establishing a final deadline, which would keep students in distance learning until the end of the school year if the parameters are met too late.
“The thought is that [DJUSD] wants to make sure that kids can get back in class, so they set these parameters,” Clayton said. “But they don’t want that to be the last week of school. Is there a point or threshold where it just doesn’t make sense to change everyone’s schedule and routine for a couple of days of school, or a couple of weeks of school?”