With more and more vaccinations underway, declining COVID-19 case rates, and the resultant easing of safety restrictions, there is a lot of change happening in the community. Almost 42 percent of Mendocino County is vaccinated, and the daily average of new cases was down to 2.58 last week.
One demographic that is heavily impacted by these changes is our school-aged children. Thanks to our community’s success in slowing the virus, more and more students have been able to return to school and receive valuable in-person instruction.
Throughout the entire year, the Ukiah Unified School District, along with the state of California, has been closely monitoring and assessing the situation to help students get the best education they can in these conditions. Let’s take a look at what happened at my school, Ukiah High School, and where we are today.
In February, conditions allowed for preschool, TK-2, and a few special cases to return to the classrooms. Not long after, on the 22nd, grades 3-6 were able to join. Unfortunately, state restrictions required the county to have a case rate below 7 per 100,000 for a week in order to enter the “red tier” before secondary students (grades 7-12) were able to return.
But just last month, on March 18th, we met that requirement, entered the red tier, and secondary students were allowed to return to school. While the majority of students have been ready to get back into the classrooms, others and their families still have restrictions and reservations. To accommodate this, students can choose to remain home as “distance learning students” or attend in-person as “hybrid students”.
Thanks to social distance regulations changing from 6 feet to 3 feet for students, on April 6th, Ukiah High students were welcomed back on campus four days each week! This system has worked well, and Ukiah High School continues to utilize it, making changes to the schedule as the situation develops. As of right now, the hybrid system, along with various safety measures, has kept students and teachers safe. Some of these protocols include rapid antigen COVID-19 tests available to all UUSD students, mask requirements, online health screenings, vaccinated staff, and new one-way paths to get around campus while minimizing interaction.
With Governor Newsom’s announcement that the state will “extend vaccine eligibility to those 16 and older starting April 15,” Mendocino County Public Health is organizing for the distribution of the vaccines to our school-aged teens.
With these strides in protecting against the virus and our declining case rates, the hope of a normal graduation ceremony for the senior class of 2021 is looking more and more realistic. Senior class president Michael Leggett is “hopeful about the evolving guidelines” and “excited to see the chance of a traditional graduation”. A committee of interested students has been working with the UHS administration to make our close-to-traditional graduation ceremony a reality.