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Grass Valley School District to return to distance learning Monday

Grass Valley School District campuses will return to a distance learning instructional format Monday, district superintendent Andrew Withers confirmed.

The district began the academic year with distance learning in August, and had opened its campuses for hybrid instruction districtwide Nov. 2.

Withers announced the decision Wednesday night in an email addressed to district staff, parents, and other community members.



The message referenced a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Nevada County as documented by the county Coronavirus Dashboard, as well as the Greater Sacramento region falling under the threshold of 15% ICU availability this week, triggering a regional stay-at-home order applicable to Nevada County.

“Please note that the stay-at-home order guidelines do not require school districts to discontinue in-person services and our Grass Valley schools remain a safe place for students to learn,” said Withers. “However, we want to ensure we are doing our part to support and protect our district and community.”




Withers said the district’s Early Childhood Learning Services and Essential Worker Care Program will continue in person, unless ordered by health officials to close.

For the rest of the district, the plan is to reopen campuses for hybrid instruction Jan. 4, with district staff to “continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 in Nevada County” in the meantime. Withers said that, if that plan changes, the district will provide an update.

OTHER DISTRICTS

The Nevada Joint Union High School District similarly announced in late November they would be returning to distance learning, after having opened campuses for hybrid instruction Oct. 12.

The week of that announcement, Nevada County had just moved into the purple — or “widespread” — tier of COVID-19 risk per state guidelines, and assistant superintendent Dan Frisella referenced a surge in cases among district students and staff as straining their operations due to associated quarantine requirements.

“It is the belief of the public health department that pausing in-person classes for two or more incubation periods will help reduce exposure and circulation of the virus, countywide,” Frisella said Nov. 20.

District superintendent Brett McFadden said Thursday that it is too early for the district to determine a date for returning to in-person instruction at this point.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, which had opened campuses for hybrid instruction Oct. 29, also announced late November it would be returning to distance learning.

A key factor in their return to distance learning, also, was the volume of cases and quarantines — at the time of the decision, they had confirmed 27 active cases of COVID-19, leading to over 185 people quarantined.

District communications coordinator Kelli Twomey said shortly after the announcement that the district would remain in distance learning at least until January, noting there was “huge concern of a spike over the (winter) holidays.”

In a letter to parents Thursday, district superintendent Carmen Ghysels said the district plans to remain in distance learning until Jan. 15 as they determine a timeline for reopening their campuses.

As of Thursday, plans remained unchanged at Union Hill School District, which has been in a hybrid format since beginning the academic year in August.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.


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