IUSD staff have worked around the clock planning for the 2020-21 school year and the safe return of students to our campuses and classrooms in accordance with the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency guidelines for schools. As part of this planning, the District has identified and allocated more than $21 million for health and safety measures. This includes upgrades to school HVAC systems, purchasing air purification units for each classroom, the addition of certified and classified staff to help reduce cohort sizes, free COVID-19 testing for staff, school and facilities upgrades, personal protective equipment, learning environment enhancements, mental health and wellness supports, and trainings for staff. Much of this information can also be found in our Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.
Through feedback from teachers, staff, students and families, we know that online learning works for some students, while it presents challenges for others for various reasons. The return to in-person instruction, during this time when county rates continue to trend in a positive direction and when Irvine’s numbers are some of the lowest in the county, will give the more than 22,000 students, enrolled in in-person academic models, an opportunity to connect with their peers and teachers in a way that meets their needs, and will support their social emotional development and learning that has not been possible since early March.
Instruction in this new COVID reality will look different to comply with health and safety guidelines of the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency. However, these guidelines apply to all school districts and for students, who thrive within in-person settings, physical distancing and personal protective equipment will not diminish the opportunity to engage with other students, teachers and instructional staff.
The health and safety of our students and staff is our priority. This means that in addition to health and safety investments detailed below, we will continue to promote physical distancing measures, healthy hygiene practices and education, stringent cleaning standards, smaller cohorting to the extent possible, and face coverings. To learn more, see the following information or visit IUSD’s Opening and Safety Planning webpage.
Inclusive and Proactive Planning
The District engaged in an inclusive process designed to meet the diverse needs of our community. As we began planning for the 2020-21 school year last spring, the District convened a taskforce that was comprised of teachers, staff, principals, nurses, District leadership, parents, students and medical professionals, conducted multiple family and staff surveys and utilized feedback from the taskforce and surveys to develop different academic models to meet the needs of our students, families and staff.
Our plan has always been to return students to the classroom, when conditions are safe, in alignment with state and local guidelines and in accordance with Senate Bill 98 (SB 98), which requires school districts to offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible, once local conditions are deemed safe. In anticipation of the county meeting the state’s requirements for opening schools for in-person instruction, IUSD developed the Opening and Safety Planning Guide designed to mitigate and reduce the risk of in-person instruction, so that we can safely welcome students back to our classrooms and campuses.
According to the most recent Orange County Health Care Agency report, Orange County COVID rates continue to trend in a positive direction, while Irvine’s rates are some of the lowest in the county. Our District is able to begin in-person instruction, while other districts may not be, due to our inclusive and thorough planning process. Over the summer, even after IUSD learned that OC students would start the year online, IUSD asked families to continue the academic model selection process. By moving forward with this planning, IUSD was able to allocate resources and assign staffing for each academic model, so that when health conditions improved in Orange County, our District would be able to pivot quickly and re-open our schools to students, whose families selected in-person options. As a result, classes and teachers will transition to in-person learning together starting September 24 and 25.
Health and Safety Investments
Through CARES Act funding, IUSD has invested and allocated $17.5 million in safety plans as detailed in our Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan. Separate from the $17.5 million, IUSD has earmarked $4 million for free staff testing that includes baseline and ongoing testing as needed. Testing for students, families and staff can also be done through the City of Irvine at the Great Park or through the County of Orange sites.
The following investments and initiatives are detailed on the District’s Opening and Safety Planning site as well.
- Each school’s HVAC system has been recalibrated to pull in more fresh air from outside and has been equipped with new filters.
- In addition to the upgrades to the HVAC system, each classroom is equipped with a HEPA air purification system that continually cleans the air.
- As reported by expert health agencies, proper ventilation with outside air can help reduce the risk of airborne contaminants, such as COVID-19.
- All students, staff and visitors are required to wear face coverings unless they are exempt per state guidelines.
- To the greatest extent possible, students will be in smaller cohorts.
- Classroom spaces will be arranged to remove non-essential furniture, allowing maximum space for students and staff.
- Student desks will be arranged to face the same direction (rather than facing each other) and spaced six feet from teachers.
- Three-panel desk safety shields will be available when six-feet of distancing cannot be maintained. Other appropriate safety measures will be implemented.
- Routes will be designated for entry and exit to lunch, recess, and other transition times.
- Directional and educational signage related to physical distancing, hand washing, recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19, and more will be placed throughout schools.
- Hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout the sites, especially in areas without a sink.
- In addition to following federal, state and local guidelines, IUSD's Maintenance and Operations team is also working with expert agencies such as Forensic Analytical, Keenan, and International Sanitary Supply Association to provide additional guidance on campuses.
- Cleaning protocols are in place to deep clean, sanitize and disinfect.
- Increased scheduled cleaning and disinfection, including frequently touched surfaces and high traffic areas.
- Limit sharing of supplies between students to the extent possible and encourage students to take home personal items for cleaning daily.
- Students will be encouraged to bring refillable water bottles or have an option to use a disposable cup at water filling stations.
- Playground equipment, lunch tables and other areas will be regularly inspected and cleaned for student use.
- Bus drivers will practice all safety actions and protocols as indicated for other staff (e.g., hand hygiene, face coverings) and clean and disinfect school buses or other transport vehicles.
- As part of our commitment to creating a safe environment for our students and staff, each school has developed a plan for maintaining healthy operations that is consistent with guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. This includes:
- A worksite plan to identify and implement safety measures.
- Student and staff trainings (sanitation practices, physical distancing, face coverings, hygiene, personal protective equipment, ventilation and more)
- Symptom screenings and health checks for students and staff.
- Thorough cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
- Physical distancing guidelines.
For more information about IUSD's Opening and Safety Planning, visit iusd.org/2020-21.
What Families Can Do
We encourage families to discuss with your student(s) what their return to school will look like, along with some of the ways we’re working together to keep one another safe. Also, reinforce the importance of hand-washing, physical distancing and face coverings. If your child has any underlying health issues, please schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to talk about risk factors for vulnerable children. If a member of your household tests positive for COVID-19, please keep your child at home and notify your school. Finally, if your child has any symptoms associated with the coronavirus, make sure they stay home and get tested if necessary. Keep children home when they are sick.
IUSD COVID-19 Reporting Instructions for Families
If your student(s) is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, it must be reported to your school through your secure account in the Parent Portal. Please follow IUSD reporting instructions. IUSD schools and staff will maintain confidentiality and protect student privacy, following all FERPA protocols.
Please continue checking your email and other sources of communications from your schools, which have been providing school and class specific information. For ongoing updates and information from the District, visit our COVID-19 resource page, which includes an FAQ that may also provide answers for many of your questions. For detailed information about the District’s safety planning, visit our Opening and Safety Planning webpage.