Lodi Unified classes may remain virtual if San Joaquin County moves to the purple tier

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — The plan was to have Lodi Unified School district students come back to the classroom in phases, with special day-class students set to return Nov. 19 — but only if San Joaquin County remains in the red tier.

“Things can change on a spur of the moment; we may not have a lot of notice, so we know that we have to be flexible,” said Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer, Superintendent, Lodi Unified School District.

Flexibility will be key because, as a local public health officer tells FOX40, the most restrictive tier is looming.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re going back to purple. I hope I’m wrong, but the way I’m looking at the numbers, I think we are headed back there,” warned Dr. Maggie Park, public health officer of San Joaquin County.

“By reverting to purple — if we do purple next week — it does not affect the schools directly,” Park added.

However, Park said infection rates may impact campus closures: “If 5% of a school campus has COVID-positive cases —  including teachers, staff, and children together — then they get closed.”

Nichols-Washer said that the school district is adhering to state guidelines, as outlined in the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

“According to what we have in place, currently, if we are in purple, then we do stay or return to all-distance learning,” she said.

The superintendent added that the district has been preparing for in-person learning by ordering air purifiers, desk shields and hand-washing stations.

“[We] have quite a bit of PPE already in our hands; we have a lot of those critical types of supplies ready to go,”’ Nichols-Washer said.

If the county does remain in the red, that means moving forward with more students on-campus. Elementary kids are slated to return Nov. 30, and middle and high schoolers Jan. 4.

“The best way for students to learn is in-person,” but “we need our community’s help” to do so, said Michelle Orgon, president of the Lodi Education Association.

Park added that schools may opt for cohorts, meaning opening up the classroom to students in certain need: students in special education, ESL classes, and who are in danger of being abused at home.

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