A sign at Gilroy High School notifies students and faculty of Covid-19 safety guidelines. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

One year after the Gilroy Unified School District shut down its classrooms to in-person instruction, students could return to campus in mid-April.

The district’s Board of Education will consider a plan on March 18 that would bring students back to the classroom April 15-20.

The district’s Reopening Planning Committee, which was formed in May, recommended in January that the board should consider reopening schools when Santa Clara County has been in the Red Tier of the state’s reopening framework for five consecutive days, and when the Covid-19 case rate in Gilroy is below 25 per 100,000 residents for at least five consecutive days.

The county moved into the Red Tier on March 3, and Gilroy’s average case rate has been consistently below the target daily since March 7, according to Santa Clara County Public Health data.

With the targets achieved, the committee is recommending a phased approach to reopening, according to Superintendent Deborah Flores. 

Preschool through second grade should return April 15, the committee recommended. Grades 3-5 are recommended to return April 19, with grades 6-12 returning April 20.

Elementary students would attend school up to four mornings per week, and participate in distance learning in the afternoon. At the secondary level, students will be on campus for one period per day, four days a week, with two to three periods in distance learning.

Among the various safety protocols, students must remain six feet from each other in the classroom, and Flores estimated that most classrooms in the district could only sit 10-12 students.

The district will be asking parents to complete a form indicating whether they wish for their child to participate in the hybrid model or continue with distance learning.

A survey of more than 5,000 GUSD parents and guardians showed that 60 percent of respondents wished to return to in-person learning, according to Flores.

More than 400 district staff have received at least a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Flores said, and most are expected to be fully vaccinated by the time schools reopen.

Repairs and upgrades of the district’s 1,200 HVAC units are expected to be complete by early April.

In a statement, a group of parents who form Advocating for Gilroy Students wrote that they hope the trustees approve the April reopening dates.

However, they expressed concern over the proposed hybrid schedules, saying the district is only offering “minimal opportunities solely to receive AB86 funding.” That bill provides financial incentives for school districts to return to in-person learning.

In addition, the parents said they foresee a “logistical nightmare” with only one hour between drop-off and pickup per the proposed schedule.

“Advocating for Gilroy Students hopes the district will provide more opportunities for collaboration with the community from now until the beginning of the 2021 school year to accomplish the goal of returning to full-time in-person instruction,” the group wrote. “This past year parents have felt unheard and ignored by the district and trustees, revealing a lack in leadership, transparency and communication. We hope moving forward the district will make our children’s education their priority.”

The GUSD Board of Education will meet virtually on March 18 at 7pm. To view the agenda, visit bit.ly/3lgmhZK.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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