FULLERTON, Calif. — As superintendents around Orange County grapple with coronavirus protocols, Fullerton elementary schools are heading back to the classroom.

“We’ve worked night and day to prepare,” said Julienne Lee, assistant superintendent of educational services at the Fullerton School District (FSD).

What You Need To Know

  • Fullerton elementary schools in Orange County reopen on Tuesday, Oct. 13

  • The Fullerton School District has already partially reopened for some special-needs programs

  • FSD has 12,532 students and 2,348 faculty to teach them

  • Classes will be kept small — typical classrooms have 30 students, but the district has cut them in half

The district will return Tuesday, Oct. 13, after the Columbus Day holiday. The district will have a bit of a running start, having already partially reopened for some special-needs programs.

Schools around the county have had to adjust quickly, cobbling together procedures based on guidelines handed down by state and county health officials. Sporadic instances of positive tests among students and faculty have sprung up throughout the county. One student at Los Alamitos High School tested positive exactly one week after the campus opened on Sept. 29, and the Irvine Unified School District has created a database to track positive cases.

FSD has created a chart to apprise parents and students of positive cases. The district has 12,532 students and 2,348 faculty to teach them. The chart currently lists two teachers with active cases.

But health officials have decided it’s safe enough for students and teachers to return.

“Kids only have so much of a window of time as they’re learning, and we’re looking at ways to mitigate the learning loss,” said Lee.

Efforts to draw up new protocols at FSD began in the spring against a backdrop of business closures and social distancing orders that kept children and some parents home.

“We were shocked by school closures, but thank goodness we had spring break,” Lee said. “Nobody took it off.”

FSD has developed a curriculum of instructional videos to help students learn social distancing behaviors. Those videos include instructions on how to stand in line for the bathroom or how to act safely during lunchtime.

Teachers have been equipped with gear, like face masks and gloves, and everyone is screened for high temperatures. If a high temperature is detected — hot drinks can set off a thermometer, for instance — then the person is sent to a hydration station to wait for a second test.

Classes will be kept small. Typical classes have more than 30 students, but Lee said the district has cut them in half. Administrators had considered putting students in outdoor tents but scrounged up enough space in gyms, libraries, and multi-purpose rooms to keep students inside. Desks will be positioned six feet apart or have plexiglass shields if closer.

Beefed up health and safety measures won’t be enough for all parents, Lee said, so schools offer several options. Some students will continue all learning virtually. Others will spend two days a week in a classroom, two days on Zoom (on- or off-site, depending on the option selected), while the final day alternates between the two.

Since health officials gave the green light to open, pressure from parents has mounted.

“I’ve been adamant in my advocacy that the October 13 reopen date does not get pushed back again,” said Fullerton Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald.

She explained that if students are back in school, they need to be with teachers — not watching them on a screen.

“Someone has to be bold and courageous here and pull the trigger, so our kids can get back into class."