After hearing impassioned pleas and arguments from the community during the Galt Joint Union High School District Board meeting on March 4, the board voted during a subsequent meeting to re-open schools once the county comes into the red tier, which Sean Duncan mentioned could happen next week.

Duncan said the school board anticipates re-opening March 18 at the earliest.

During the March 8 special board meeting that was planned for voting on whether to re-open schools, the board voted to re-open schools two days after Sacramento County moves into the red tier. The day between the red tier announcement and the re-opening date would be for informing families and students about re-opening details and to get schools and transportation ready.

The re-opening plan is to provide the option for students to study on campus; students can choose to continue remote learning if they wish.

The district outlined a plan in which students would learn in a hybrid model if schools open before spring break, with 50% of students attending one day and the other half attending school the next day.

That model would continue until March 25. After spring break, students at Galt High School and Liberty Ranch High School will expand to attending school four days a week. The one day without instruction would be used for state testing, COVID-19 testing, staff meetings and professional development.

Estrellita High School students will start attending four days a week two days after the county moves into the red tier.

Criteria for the plan includes daily health screenings by students and students, staff and visitors will need to wear masks and physical distance (six feet when possible but four feet, if needed).

For physical education classes, students would learn outside unless weather forces classes inside in which case, classes would be held in a large room such as the gym or cafeteria.

Classes that involve projecting voices, like chorus or band, would be held outside only and would require eight feet of social distancing.

Students who are remote learning will be able to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics.

In his presentation during the special meeting, Duncan noted that dropping COVID-19 case rates and upcoming changes in the tier status cutoff from seven to 10 new cases per 100,000 people, which would move the county into the red tier at a faster pace, are both factors that are allowing the district to re-open.

The board mentioned it did miss its opportunity back in November where they could have re-opened but ended up missing the cutoff due to the changing tier level, but that they are ready to re-open as soon as they are allowed to do so.

“We look forward to the moment we turn red,” Melissa Neuburger said.

The board recommended that finals be moved up by a few days so that students don’t start their first day back on campus with finals.

While some of the public comments asked to return to five days a week, Duncan noted that since the district is unsure of how many students will want to return to campus right away and with a concern for physical distancing, the board wanted to ease students back with the two-day-a-week hybrid model, which would also allow for staff to provide proper health and safety measures.

During the March 4 meeting, Duncan mentioned that the second vaccination clinic has been moved to March 26 and that to re-open, the state requires schools to offer optional testing to staff and students bi-weekly until counties move into the orange tier.

Athletes in certain sports, including football, are required to test weekly before they can play.

Tests will be self-administered while a self-test coach observes students, with a 24-48 turnaround on results.

The board noted that a record 78 people attended the March 4 meeting, which included an extended time for public comments, via Zoom.

With the approval of the re-opening plan, the board said it will inform parents and students of the next steps through ParentSquare, the district website, district Facebook page and other social media, as well as autodialer.