Fresno Unified parents preparing their children to return to classes on Tuesday can expect some new COVID-19 protocols.
Superintendent Bob Nelson announced changes to the district’s coronavirus safety protocols during a news conference with reporters on Monday.
“Obviously, the omicron variant continues to spread in our community, but we’re excited to have our kids back and also concerned with how our schools are going to be impacted by that new variant,” Nelson said.
Nelson also said the district would shorten the quarantine period to five days instead of 10. The move keeps the district in step with the latest guidance from health experts.
Nelson said the district has no intention of returning to remote learning district-wide.
“Any rumor that the district may be moving to online learning is just that, a rumor,” Nelson said.
However, Nelson also said that classrooms and some schools could return to online learning.
If an individual classroom has four or more positive cases within a two-week span, it will return to remote learning, Nelson said.
“To determine if an entire school was to revert back to online learning for a period time that will be made on a case-by-case basis and a mitigation as last resort,” Nelson said.
Staffing shortages due to COVID infections emerged Monday at the Sierra Unified School District in Fresno County. The district shut down its campuses Monday and returned students to distance learning until at least Jan. 18.
Additionally, Nelson announced a new collaboration with the California Department of Health and Health Care IT.
FUSD will offer weekly testing at every school site. For students to participate in the weekly testing parents must sign a consent form.
The program is currently being piloted and parents can expect to receive consent forms within the next one to three weeks according to FUSD chief communications officer Nikki Henry.
The announcement of onsite testing may be relief for parents who expressed frustration on Monday after not receiving an at-home rapid test kit.
The race to find rapid COVID tests
FUSD received about 70,000 rapid at-home test kits to be distributed to parents and staff on Friday and Monday.
Fresno schools planned to hand out the testing kits all day Friday and Monday, but supplies ran dry early Monday.
“We understand there was significant frustration for families that weren’t able to get one. We apologize we wanted to make sure that everybody had one,” Nelson said on Monday.
Several parents who spoke with The Bee’s Education Lab said they raced from school to school on Monday, only to be told the last testing kits had been distributed already.
FUSD grandparent Claudette Johnson was turned away at Edison High on Monday before striking out again at Fresno High a short time later.
“I feel kind of bad because you know the kids are getting ready to go back to school, and so I was really hoping to find one or two kits,” Johnson said.
Vour Xiong volunteered to hand out the tests Monday at Fresno High. Xiong said Fresno High was the last school to run out of tests Monday.
Parent Erika Ireland said she was glad the schools were handing out tests and said at least one of her friends managed to get what they needed, but Ireland had no luck.
“No one’s been able to get them. It’s just so frustrating,” FUSD parent Erika Ireland said.
When will Fresno get more COVID test kits?
Fresno County received approximately 160,000 testing kits last week, distributed through the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.
Hank Gutierrez, the county’s deputy superintendent, previously told the Education Lab the tests would be distributed over the next two weeks.
Gutierrez told the Education Lab on Monday it is unclear when the next batch will arrive.
“At this time, we are unaware of when the state will send more tests. We will help as much as possible if more test kits are needed, but we are limited as well,” Gutierrez said in an email.
The tests come from a batch of nearly six million kits that Gov. Gavin Newsom planned to distribute to all schools before students returned from the winter holidays.
Scores of tests have been delayed due to the recent storms.
Delays and supply shortages have plagued schools across the nation in recent weeks.
Other local school districts like Selma Unified and Clovis Unified received their test kits earlier in December.
Selma Unified ordered 6,500 kits for its 6,200 students but only received 5,888, district officials said.
FUSD families who could not get test kits are also encouraged to get tested at one of FUSD’s testing sites: Fresno High School, McLane High School, Gaston Middle School, Roosevelt High School, and Hoover High School.
Fresno County’s Health Department also has a list of testing sites and times at www.fcdph.org/covid19testing. People without internet access can call the county’s COVID-19 information line at 888-559-2683 for help finding a testing site.
Omicron in Fresno County
Tracy Vang said she was relieved to get the tests for her four children on Monday. She picked up the last of the kits available at Fresno High School.
“It feels really good because as a parent, you are kind of afraid of sending your kids back to school,” Vang said. “It actually feels good to see that people are picking up their tests and stuff and making sure that their kids are tested before they go back to school to make sure every kid is safe.”
Schools, parents, and health officials across Fresno have expressed concerns about children returning to school amid the rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The easy transmissibility of the omicron variant has contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Fresno County.
On Friday, Fresno County experienced its largest surge of new cases in almost a year, with local and state health officials reporting nearly 2,400 new infections for a two-day period.
The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn about The Bee’s Education Lab on our website.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)