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COVID Schools: Los Gatos Elementary Students Return To Class For In-Person Learning

LOS GATOS (KPIX 5) -- A South Bay school district at the center of a vaccine controversy on Monday began welcoming elementary school kids back into the classroom to resume in-person learning.

The Los Gatos Unified School District has been focused on distance learning since last March, so the anticipation and planning to reopen schools was huge.

"I'm super excited!" one student told KPIX.

It was a big day at Blossom Hill Elementary in Los Gatos. As the district phases students back to school for in-person learning, the children are adjusting to a whole new set up.

"The gates are laid out by grade level at this point. When the children enter, they have their temperatures taken and they sanitize their hand," said principal Lisa Reynolds. "And there's social distancing markers all around the school."

300 of the school's 500 students will return to school two days a week and attend class via Zoom the other days. Grades K-2 and 6th Grade Cohort A returned Monday, with grades 3-5 and 6th Grade Cohort B set to return Monday, Feb. 8.

Grades 7 and up are set to remain in remote learning until the case rate comes down. But even as Santa Clara County sits squarely in the purple tier, the parents KPIX 5 talked to are glad to be back.

"Our teachers have been phenomenal and they've done a great job with Zoom, but I know that they're all excited to have that energy in the classroom together and to be able to ask questions in a different way," said parent Melissa Crow.

"We are so excited and happy. He was a little nervous last night, but overall, he's very excited," said parent Beth Ji.

"It is very, very awesome to get the kids back, and they are so excited," said Grandparent Simon Lam.

As for teachers and staff, 65 of them were vaccinated last week with their first dose at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, even though they weren't next in line. That drew criticism from some.

The hospital's CEO apologized, but the Los Gatos Unified superintendent defended the decision. He said the district believed the hospital was given the green light to vaccinate educators.

Case rates have to be at seven per 100,000 or fewer for Grades 7 and up to go back to in-person learning.

As for larger districts in the Bay Area, their respective reopening dates remain uncertain.

The San Francisco Unified School District had no target date, but an "In-Person Learning Readiness" dashboard on the district's website shows the progress among a checklist of requirements before return to in-person class can resume.

SFUSD told KPIX 5 staff are required to watch a 3-hour training video, the SF Department of Public Health has begun school site inspections, and negotiations with labor unions are ongoing.

The Oakland Unified School District has postponed its January 25 target date, with the re-opening dependent on a range of factors, including case counts, tier status, and guidance from county health officials.

"I think everybody here has an eye towards the opening this spring. We don't want to wait any longer than we have to," said OUSD Spokesperson John Sasaki. "Provided that people get vaccinated en masse, provided that we can really get to a point where we're feeling in the City of Oakland, and really the region at-large, better about where we are with regard to the pandemic, I think that it makes it much more likely that we're going to we're going to open for business, at least to TK to 2."

Kiet Do contributed to this story.

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