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Ocean View School District plans full return to in-person instruction for elementary school students

Third- through fifth-grade students at Village View Elementary in Huntington Beach.
Third- through fifth-grade students in Maurice Simmons’ classroom on Wednesday at Village View Elementary in Huntington Beach. The Ocean View School District has announced that elementary school kids will be transitioning back to five days a week on-campus instruction through April 19.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Students have gotten used to Zoom meetings during the coronavirus pandemic, but one local school district is days away from having some students back on campus five days a week.

The Ocean View School District is moving forward with plans to bring elementary school students back on-campus full time for instruction, beginning Monday.

The district, which has 10 elementary school campuses, serves parts of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Midway City and Westminster. Students in the hybrid model have been on campus two days a week and distance learning online three days a week.

Transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade Ocean View School District students will be back on campuses five days a week beginning Monday. Second- and third-grade students will return to full-time on-campus instruction on April 12, and fourth- and fifth-grade students on April 19.

Two smaller elementary school districts in the district — Golden View Elementary in Huntington Beach and Westmont Elementary in Westminster — will have all of their students returning in person on Monday.

“We know that our kids learn better when they’re in front of their teachers,” Ocean View School District Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer said. “We know that the community has been asking for this, and so we are really, really excited to be leading the way to get our kids back into the classrooms and in front of their teachers. I think the kids need it, the parents need it and the community needs a sense of normality.”

District Supt. Carol Hansen said that the California Department of Public Health social distancing requirements for classrooms were lowered from six to four feet on Jan. 14, then to three feet on March 20. The loosened requirements along with improving COVID-19 numbers — Orange County appears to be on the verge of moving into the orange tier — made five days a week on campus a possibility.

Families with elementary school students in the district’s strictly online Virtual Academy, which Hansen said has about 1,800 students of 7,500 district-wide, can choose to remain in the academy and not come back on campus.

“As the transition rates went down, people started to look at how we could make this work,” Hansen said. “You hear things all over the nation that some teachers are hesitant to go back. What I think you need to give credit for in Ocean View is that our teachers were willing to go back, and they worked with us to come up with this plan in order to get students back in school five days a week. I do believe it’s because we have a strong working relationship with our teacher’s union that we got this done quickly.”

The district’s four middle schools will remain in hybrid learning.

Ocean View School District Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer, left, and Clerk Gina Clayton-Tarvin, right.
Ocean View School District Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer, left, and Clerk Gina Clayton-Tarvin, right, stand in third- through fifth-grade class at Village View Elementary in Huntington Beach. The Ocean View School District has announced that elementary school kids will be transitioning back to five days a week on-campus instruction through April 19.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Hansen said the district will hire more teachers and install more desk shields to adhere to social distancing requirements on campus. She added that the Virtual Academy has freed up space on campuses to do so.

“Let’s say a teacher’s classroom can hold 22 students, but the teacher, when they bring both of their cohorts together, has 28 students,” Hansen said. “They can’t fit in that room, so we will have to reconfigure classrooms.”

Other districts are considering similar changes. Newport-Mesa Unified School District recently announced that all of its elementary schools will be open for full-time instruction on April 21.

Paul Glunt, who has a third-grade daughter who attends Hope View Elementary in Huntington Beach, was excited to hear Ocean View School District’s announcement. He said his family is excited to go back full-time to campus, especially since his daughter is an only child and misses the social interaction.

“We’re worriers about the disease, but we feel like so far, the school has done the right thing,” Glunt said. “From everything we read about the virus, we feel like it’s a safe decision.”

Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Natalie Moser also has two kids in the district, including her fifth-grade daughter Riley, who attends Circle View Elementary.

“I think she’s excited to be there more days and have more time with her teacher and her friends,” Moser said. “I know as a parent, I’m very excited for her to have that. Certainly, the hybrid has been the best possible offering during this time, but the virtual part is definitely challenging.”

Moser also expects some nervousness to set in with her daughter as well, noting there will be an adjustment to returning to a more structured schedule.

“She’s like, ‘Noon is the perfect end of my day,’” Moser said. “And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t think it was the end of your day.’”

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