VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - The Ventura County Public Health Department announced it is accepting school waiver applications to allow in-person instruction at campuses.
The waivers cover Tk through 6th grades. These waivers are necessary to allow grammar schools to reopen due to the county's position on the statewide COVID-19 monitoring list.
In accordance with state guidelines, waivers may be granted "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."
“This was a difficult decision. I recognize there are reasons not to open our Health Department to requests for waivers, but we got to the point where I feel the benefits outweigh the risks,” said Doctor Robert Levin, Ventura County Public Health Officer. “Research shows that our youngest children derive significant benefits from in-person interaction with their teachers and with one another in the school setting. We will ensure that schools have a solid plan in place to protect their students and staff and they will work with the health department when there is a case to prevent further spread of the virus. I feel that children K through grade 6 can receive education in a manner that is both rewarding and safe."
At the time the state outlined the waiver process for elementary schools, Ventura County did not immediately begin accepting applications. “I’ve waited before approving this because I wanted to see some improvement in our number of COVID cases. Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard’s Global Health Institute, the Chan School of Public Health and the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics all would have supported opening up our grammar schools for waivers weeks ago. I’ve tried to be more cautious,” said Dr. Levin.
All grammar schools applying for waivers, whether public or private, must meet, at a minimum, the criteria laid out in the document “Framework for Reopening Ventura County Schools."
Middle schools and high schools are not eligible for waivers at this time.
Completed waiver applications can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. These waivers must be submitted no later than 14 days before the school's reopening date.
The following conditions must be met in order to apply for a waiver, per California:
- A school or district must publish a school’s reopening plan online and, before applying, consult with parents, community organizations and teachers or, in the case of school districts, employee unions.
- The application will apply only to TK to sixth grade, even if the school includes seventh and eighth grades. “Based on the current best available scientific evidence, COVID-related risks in schools serving elementary-age students (grades TK-6) are lower than and different from the risks to staff and to students in schools serving older students,” the department said in an FAQ accompanying the guidance.
- The school must show evidence that it would comply with all the safety and hygiene requirements for opening elementary schools, as listed in the CDPH/CalOSHA Guidance for Schools and SchoolBased Programs. These include a 6-foot social distancing requirement, face covering requirements, staff training and family education and student and staff testing.
Waiver applications can be downloaded here.