EL CENTRO — School buildings in Imperial County could be reopening soon for children attending elementary school, though the school districts are the ones that will make decision whether to proceed.
Public and private elementary schools, grades TK-6, in Imperial County may submit waiver applications to allow in-person instruction with modifications at their campuses, the Imperial County Public Health Department announced Wednesday.
In accordance with California guidelines, waivers may be granted by the local health officer in Tier 1 (purple tier) “when requested by a local superintendent (or equivalent for charter or private schools), in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations. Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with the California Department of Public Health when considering a waiver request,” ICPHD said in a release.
County Health Officer Steve Munday would be the person granting the waivers if the superintendents or headmasters make the request.
Imperial County remains in the purple tier. To move to the red tier, it would have to be no higher than an 8 percent positive test rate and no more than seven positive cases per 100,000 residents. The county is no longer meeting either benchmark.
The Imperial County Public Health Department began talking about waivers more than a month ago, but never took the step to implement them.
A school district’s decision to seek a waiver would be in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations.
“The improving COVID-19 situation in Imperial County now makes it practical to consider school waivers provided that the appropriate protective measures are in place,” Munday said in a press release. “I look forward to children being able to return to their classrooms in the safest manner possible.”
County public health information officer Andrea Bowers said each individual school district, private or charter school will decide if they are interested in pursuing a waiver to allow them to reopen for in-person instruction.
Some districts in the county will probably ask for the waiver, while others will not want to, she said.
Bowers reiterated that improving conditions in Imperial County’s COVID-19 status are behind the health department’s decision to consider waivers for elementary school reopening.
El Centro parent Claudia Camarena, said she would send her 9-year-old daughter, a fourth-grader, back to school if she has this option.
“As long as I know it’s safe, I want her to go back to school to resume a normal life,” she said.
She added of the parents she knows the vast majority want to send their children back to in-person school instruction.
Local health officers still must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions and consult with the California Department of Public Health when considering a waiver request.
The state’s waiver guidelines for resuming in-person instruction do not apply to junior high and high schools.
Superintendents from El Centro, Imperial and Calexico did not respond to requests for comment on whether they will be asking for waivers.