Corona-Norco pulls back on reopening elementary schools in near future – Press Enterprise

Corona-Norco Unified’s 27,000 elementary school students will not return to the classrooms in early January as planned.

Only five days after announcing that in-person learning would resume on Jan. 5, the school board reversed course Saturday, Jan. 2, voting 3-2 to delay reopening until receiving specific guidance under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Safe Schools for All Plan.

The plan provides specific details on funding, COVID-19 testing, protective equipment, contact tracing and vaccinations. The plan envisions schools reopening in February.

The news will be disappointing to many parents, some of whom have tearfully begged school board members to allow in-person learning. The district had planned to allow year-round elementary schools in Eastvale to reopen on Jan. 5, followed by other elementary schools on Jan. 12.

“The board wants to ensure maximum alignment with the state safety protocols prior to welcoming students back on campus,” said a news release issued Saturday.

The district has more than 52,000 students and 2,000 teachers.

Chris Rodriguez, president of the Corona-Norco Teachers Association, said the union supports the district taking the extra time to get in step with the state guidance because she believes there are significant differences between the district’s plan and the governor’s.

The state is proposing that staff members be tested every week vs. every two months under the district plan (which was in accordance with previous guidance); and that students will be tested now as well, Rodriguez said.

Also, there will be differences in protective equipment. The state will mandate surgical masks, whereas the district did not plan to provide medical-grade masks, Rodriguez said.

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“I think the additional time will allow us to open the schools in a way that’s safe and sustainable,” she said. “Everyone is trying to get to the same goal. We want the kids back in school. We want them learning and thriving.”

Corona-Norco would have been the first Riverside County school district to reopen schools.

The district’s two spokeswomen could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

At the Dec. 28 board meeting, Superintendent Sam Buenrostro said the district had implemented safety measures and was ready to reopen. But Buenrostro also expressed some concerns and recommended the board delay at least two additional weeks. Among the concerns are growing coronavirus case rates and community spread, the anticipated spike of new cases following the holidays and a shortage of available substitutes.

Nevertheless, the board voted 3-2 to reopen at that time.


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