by Taylor Chian and Judah Bennett
Conejo Valley School classrooms have been deemed unsafe for students and teachers to return to in-person education. These same classrooms are considered safe for use by Conejo Valley Child Care Services. The cost of full-day childcare per child is $850 a month.
Because of the rising numbers of positive Covid-19 tests in the state of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that public and private schools in 32 counties will hold classes solely and entirely online for the fall 2020 semester. The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) is in one of these 32 “at-risk” counties.
With schools closing, and classes taking place only online, parents are scrambling to figure out what the next school year will look like for their children.
“Distance learning is extremely tough for a special needs mom,” said Joyce Shen, a mother of a CVUSD special needs student. “There are very few options for teaching special needs through a screen. I was hoping that schools would open up again so that my son could receive the education that he so desperately needs. I have already seen a regression of social and academic skills in my son since schools closed due to COVID-19. It’s terrifying to think how much worse it will be with the extra months of distance learning.”
The Center for Disease Control has stated that extended school closures are harmful to children, particularly for students with special behavioral needs. “It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs” the CDC states.
Parents who are not working remotely have few options but to pay the additional $850 per month per child to place kids in those same schools their children attended for free. This is a space-available program with a capacity of 600 students.
The schools that will be providing childcare are Acacia, Aspen, Banyan, Ladera, Madrona, Maple, Walnut, Wildwood, Cypress, Weathersfield, Westlake Hills, Westlake, Earths, Lang Ranch, and Sycamore Canyon.
From a presentation by the district, a distinction was made that the daycare providers will not be teachers. Children are permitted to bring their computers to do remote learning.
“Staff cannot lead instruction and are not a substitute for a credentialed teacher,” according to the district.
While the possibility of childcare as the only in-person option remains on the table, a new chance for schools on the state watchlist has opened up.
During a county press conference held on August 19th, Ventura County Health Officer Robert Levin stated, “[Governor Newsom] has established an early exception opportunity for counties that have achieved an early improvement in their numbers.”
Newsom has established a system, a waiver application program, for schools to possibly open earlier than previously allowed.
According to Levin, Ventura County has been eligible for this waiver program, but the county has not yet applied for the program until now.
While explaining why the county chose to do this, Levin said, “We wanted to see our COVID numbers further improve… While I recognize that there are good reasons not to open up our health department to request for waivers for person to person education of little children, I now feel that the benefits outweigh the risks.”
Both public and private schools will now be allowed to apply for a waiver.