Students filled the sidewalk in front of Dean L. Shively Middle School waiting to have their temperatures checked before heading into class for their first day. Some lamented the long lines, others chatted with longtime friends and some stopped for photos with local politicians and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, who visited the school on Wednesday morning.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond was on hand to greet students, assure parents their children were safe and urge residents around the world to get vaccinated.
Wednesday, August 18 marked the first day of in-person instruction for students at Shivley and New Temple Elementary School in South El Monte after coronavirus restrictions kept students online and behind computers for more than ‘a year.
Although a growing coronavirus pandemic continues to infect more with the Delta variant, many students, parents and administrators have remained enthusiastic about returning to the classroom, but are wary of the potential reach of the virus. In hopes of alleviating these concerns and any potential spread, the Valle Lindo School District has brought students back to campus with a slew of new rules: mandatory masks, temperature checks before entering schools, screens in plastic in offices and regular disinfection.
“I’ve been waiting and wanting them to be here for over a year and a half, but this year it’s great to have them back,” said Ryan Bonde, Principal of New Temple Elementary.
Still, every precaution might not be enough, say some parents. Christina Gomez, mother of Mia, a fifth grader, didn’t want her daughter to return to school in person, but Mia said she wanted to return to school with her friends and teachers.
“I guess they’ll go back to distance learning eventually, but we’ll give it a shot,” Christina Gomez said. “I think it’s good for most kids, but I’m not excited about it.”
Before students enter a district campus, they will need to have their temperature checked and screened for any symptoms of COVID-19. If a student shows symptoms, they will be taken aside and tested for the virus, according to Superintendent Elizabeth Evans. Unlike the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the nation, the VLSD will not require students to take a weekly COVID-19 test before going to class.
At LAUSD, more than 3,600 students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, baseline tests showed. The district tested 81% of staff and students two weeks before returning to class, a positivity rate of 0.8%.
However, in an interview with reporters, Evans said the VLSD may consider weekly testing, but at this point is focusing on the protocols currently in place.
“We are very confident that we can keep our students safe on campus,” she said, adding that 98% of teachers in the district are vaccinated.
Even as cases continue to rise in the state and local Los Angeles County, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said students can stay in school, saying current health protocols can keep them safe. children.
“I believe we are leading the way in California with more vaccines, masking and covid testing than can be done,” he said in an interview. “Obviously we will continue to monitor safety, but every indication we have shows it can be done if we follow the proper protocols for these students.”
Some parents agree, including John Salido, whose son Brody is entering sixth grade. Salido believes the children are “relatively safe” from the virus and added that he feels safe sending his son back to school.
“It’s just exciting to be back,” Salido’s son Brody said in an interview. “I haven’t been to school for a long time. It’s hard to connect.
And Tania Zelaya, whose son Armando is entering eighth grade, is also excited – as long as Armando washes his hands regularly and keeps his mask on. She has concerns, she says, but distance learning was too hard on her and her family, especially as she works during the day.
“They need to go back to school,” she said.
Thurmond hopes to keep students in school statewide, but added in an interview that his office is monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the state on a day-to-day basis.
“We know it’s a difficult time,” he said. “We know that many have many concerns, given what is happening with the coronavirus and the delta variant, but we can do it. It starts first with vaccination. I always start by talking about vaccines because they keep our school communities safe.