COSTA MESA, Calif. — Every July, Irvine Unified music teacher Marci Seminario can be found busy getting her instruments ready for the upcoming school year. And while there is usually a big smile painted on her face, this year, it's an expression filled with wonder and worry.
"Here we are in July and the numbers are just spiking, everything is worse than it was when we started," Seminario said. "So, at this point, I wouldn’t be ready to go back into in-person classes."
With coronavirus cases in Orange County on the rise, there are many questions still left unanswered on what school will look like in the fall. Los Angeles Unified, San Diego, and Santa Ana Counties have already decided that distance learning will be the model of choice to begin the upcoming school year — something Seminario believes is the best option.
"It’s not a permanent solution, it’s a temporary solution to our problems and we will be back someday," she explained, "but we might as well keep doing the distance learning until we’re 100 percent ready."
However, in a special meeting held Monday night by the Orange County Board of Education, the board voted 4:1 on approval of a resolution for a full return to classes. The 36-page report detailed guidelines for the reopening of county schools without masks and social distancing, but with regular temperature checks and increased cleaning.
It was met with its share of criticism from the local community, like mom of two Brooke Aston Harper. "I was shocked and I was really disappointed," she said. “Our schools need to be doing everything they can to keep us safe and to slow the spread of this pandemic.”
She created a facebook page called Safe School Reopening OC, as well as a petition with more than 45,000 signatures. Her belief is that the safest option for students, teachers, and staff is to carry on with remote learning.
"The thing is that my child will be more negatively affected if someone on their campus catches the coronavirus and dies," she explained. "That is going to be far more detrimental to his health than staying at home and doing classes online.”
But others in Orange County felt differently. At the meeting, about 20 residents came forward in agreement with the board. "Opening up schools in normalcy, five days a week in person is in the best interest of our children," one woman said. "It provides the best learning environment."
Ultimately, the decision will be left to each individual school district to decide what's best for their students. Recommendations from both the board and the Department of Education are just that. Each district will be meeting over the next few weeks to determine their final course of action.