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WVUSD schools shut down amid coronavirus concerns

Walnut Valley Unified School District (WVUSD) Superintendent Robert Taylor confirmed all WVUSD schools will be closed through Sunday, April 19 as a preventative response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). All academic, athletic and extracurricular activities have been postponed until further notice.

After an emergency meeting Friday, March 13, the Board of Trustees approved the resolution to hold pupil-free days from Monday, March 16 to Wednesday, March 18 during which WHS employees will prepare for the upcoming transition, according to a staff email sent by Principal Ryan Maine. The District Office and all schools will be closed starting Thursday, March 19, according to the district website.

COVID-19 is a new class of coronavirus that can cause fever, coughing and shortness of breath. This respiratory illness was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization Wednesday, March 11.

School administration is following recommendations from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to close all schools in Los Angeles County for a minimum of two weeks. In addition, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed all entities, including school districts, to cancel public gatherings of more than 250 people until the end of March.

Newsom also waived the loss of instructional minutes based on the school’s closing. The school year will not be extended and will end as originally planned Thursday, May 28. Summer school will continue as scheduled, according to Maine.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing for juniors is suspended indefinitely. The mock SAT originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14 will instead be administered virtually. The testing website and further test-taking information were emailed to all participants. However, all mock Advanced Placement (AP) exams are canceled. AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) testing scheduled for May will resume as planned, IB coordinator Manette Idris and Instructional Dean Marta Dibell said.

“For school, we have worked so hard preparing for the AP or IB exams, so I’m just really hopeful that we can get through all of this to get back here in May and take our exams without too much of a disruption,” Idris said.

In a statement regarding the class of 2020 and 2021, class of 2021 advisers Kellee Lyons and Kirsten Thibeault announced the cancellation or postponement of all school events with the potential of 250 or more attendees, including the Enchanted Evening Prom.

“Our hopes [sic] is that this virus and all related closures… is settled sooner rather than later, and we can hold a ‘make-up’ prom sometime around graduation,” the statement said.

LACOE will continue to provide for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. WVUSD is currently working on a contingency plan and may distribute at a central location or deliver meals to students’ residencies.

Special education students’ Individual Education Plans (IEP), which are meetings between students, parents and teachers to detail educational goals and specific services, have been rescheduled to happen within a shorter time span, Dibell said.

A video and email from District School Nurse Donna Lu Hoac, RN was released Friday, March 6 to promote preventative measures that will reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends frequent handwashing, limiting close contact with those who are sick and having an ample supply of essentials (water, food, hygiene and medications) at home.

On Friday, March 20, Taylor announced the closure of WVUSD schools will be extended through Tuesday, May 5 following a directive from LACOE. If deemed safe by the Public Health Department and LACOE, WVUSD schools are tentatively scheduled to resume Wednesday, May 6.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as new information is received.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the mock SAT was canceled. The testing website and further test-taking information were emailed to all participants, and the test will be administered virtually. (March 13, 2020)

Update: The story was updated with new information regarding the school year and summer school scheduling. (March 14, 2020)

Update: All WVUSD schools are now closed through Tuesday, May 5, following a directive from LACOE. (March 20, 2020)

By the Head Editorial Board
Photo by Sarah Aie