Dear OUSD families,
I know that this has been an intense year for our students and families. From the endless stream of ever-changing information to the fear and uncertainty of so many unknowns, the last 10 months have been more challenging than anything we have faced in recent memory.
We know that Ojai Unified schools are so much more than academics. Our schools are places where students come to be loved, to feel safe, and to be nurtured. Our staff provide more than teaching, learning, supervision, technology, clean rooms, meals, and transportation. We are sources of stability and calm during the storm.
I believe that our students need us now more than ever. The stories of students' depression, isolation, and hopelessness are real and heartbreaking. At the same time, I care deeply about our staff and their safety. I cannot describe how difficult it is to know that every decision we make right now has the potential to harm the very people that we are entrusted to serve and protect.
I have spent many sleepless nights considering our return to campus. I have read emails from parents, heard from staff, and poured over the data and research. I have consulted with the Board, our admin team, and our union leadership. Here is our best thinking:
- Schools continue to be some of the safest places in the community. This new study by Harvard and Brown University researchers shows that schools can safely open, even in conditions of wide community spread, and still protect staff and students.
- The rates in Ojai continue to be significantly lower than the rest of the county. You can see the most recent numbers by zip code here.
- Ojai has also not seen the same spike as other parts of the county. Even though our most recent data is two weeks old, you will see from Ojai data over time that the rest of Ventura County started spiking on December 19th, while Ojai remained stable.
- Even if Ojai experiences a spike due to the holidays, this Friday will be 14 days from Christmas, and next Thursday will be 14 days since New Year's, which covers the 14 quarantine period.
Based on this information, our elementary schools will return to campus next week on Wednesday, January 13. Hybrid students will be on campus only Wednesday and Thursday. The week of January 18 we will follow our conference prep schedule, and hybrid students will again only be on campus on Wednesday and Thursday. The following week of January 25th, we will return to our full hybrid schedule with each cohort being on campus two days per week, with a total of four in-person learning days. You can view the elementary schedule for January here or aquí.
Our goal is that we will maintain the regular hybrid schedule through the rest of the school year. However, there is a possibility that we could have to quarantine a class or pod following Ventura County Public Health guidelines. Families might wish to have a contingency plan in case a class needs to return to distance learning.
For our secondary programs, we are planning to return to campus in small cohorts for the second semester. The schedules that our Return to Campus teams have been working on allow for one pod on campus each day. We will have more details on the proposed schedule Board meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday night and a final decision will be made at that time.
The current data suggests that schools in general are safe, Ojai is safer than most of the county and we believe that our dedicated staff and protocols keep Ojai Unified schools safe. We also understand that for a variety of reasons, returning to campus may not be best for everyone. We will continue to have an option for those families who want to stay on distance learning.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time. We know that there is no solution that works for everyone, but we are doing our best to find the balance of serving the variety of needs in our schools.
Dr. Tiffany Morse, Superintendent