Local classrooms from pre-K through 12th grade will stay open after winter break despite the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, officials said Sunday.
The announcement from the Ventura County Office of Education noted state rules don't currently allow widespread distance learning for pre-K-to-12 schools. Some colleges and universities have gone back to temporary distance learning, the agency's release noted.
Separately, Ventura County and the cities of Oxnard and Ventura announced in recent days they would shutter or restrict access to government buildings and suspend many in-person programs as coronavirus cases have spiked. For Oxnard and Ventura, the closures start Monday. Ventura County's restrictions, which allow some in-person services by appointment only, take effect Wednesday.
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Such temporary closures are not an option for K-12 campuses due to state mandates, education officials said.
California doesn't currently allow elementary, middle and high school campuses to offer distance learning and "expects all schools to keep their doors open for in-person instruction," officials said in Sunday's release. "Schools do provide an independent study option that allows students to learn from home. But unlike distance learning, it must be requested individually by families and is not intended to serve large numbers of students."
The education office is working with the Ventura County Public Health Department and local districts to keep campuses safe for students and staff, said César Morales, Ventura County's superintendent of schools.
“A major effort is underway to expand optional COVID-19 testing for students so we can reduce the chances of the virus spreading at school," Morales said in a statement. "Many school districts have been working diligently during the winter break to distribute home test kits to families and we expect a greater supply of kits to be available soon.”
Schools have also implemented enhanced ventilation, mandatory indoor masking and other measures, officials said, and are teaching outside when possible.
Authorities stressed the importance of vaccination and testing. Information on Ventura County test sites and vaccine availability can be found at venturacountyrecovers.org.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ventura County K-12 classrooms to stay open despite COVID-19 surge