Today, in response to an increase in coronavirus cases throughout the state, Governor Newsom announced a new stay at home order for regions of California where hospitals are in danger of exceeding capacity. Although this order imposes restrictions on businesses and various activities, it does not affect in-person instruction for school districts that have already opened, which has also been confirmed by Orange County Health Care Agency Officer Dr. Clayton Chau. The Governor’s office clarified that this includes schools with or without a waiver. Specifically the Governor stated that schools should remain open with the necessary precautions in place. In alignment with the Governor’s order and with guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency, IUSD schools will remain open for in-person instruction. This order does not impact IVA.
State and local health officials have cited a large body of evidence that schools’ health and safety measures, which include physical distancing, masks, ventilation enhancements, smaller cohorts, timely contact tracing and notifications, and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols have been effective in combating COVID-19. As a result, Dr. Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, has said schools are not the source of the recent COVID-19 surges and continue to have low case and transmission rates and therefore may remain open during the pandemic.
IUSD’s COVID-19 Dashboard data provides further evidence that schools are not creating or contributing to the recent increase in confirmed cases. This is especially true in Irvine where we have one of the lowest positivity rates in the entire county. While we have experienced a slight increase in student and staff cases after the Thanksgiving Break, which is reflective of trends in the community, there is little to no person-to-person transmission in schools or other facilities.
This is largely due to your diligent efforts to help keep our schools safe. Together, our staff and students continue to follow guidelines and protocols on our campuses and parents continue to support these important efforts, which are making a difference. To keep our schools safe and open, we ask our community to continue to do its part and follow guidance from expert health agencies.
In addition to being in constant contact with the Orange County Health Care Agency and following state and local guidelines, our District has also gone well above and beyond these health guidelines. We have allocated more than $21 million dollars in planned investments and other risk mitigation measures, including desk shields and stand-alone air purification systems for each classroom to further augment our enhanced ventilation systems. To read more, click here.
Thank you again for your partnership, flexibility and patience as we navigate this challenging and unprecedented chapter in IUSD’s history together. As we have since the onset of COVID-19, we will continue to closely monitor this situation and follow guidelines from expert health agencies, while keeping our community informed.
Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools
Irvine Unified School District