Superintendent says schools’ COVID programs are working

Patty Gunderson, Lassen County’s superintendent of schools, acknowledges she doesn’t know what the future might bring, but she said so far the plans created by the county’s school districts are working as planned, despite the number of COVID-19 cases rising in Lassen County.

“As you know, anything can change, but at this point we all have plans in place and they are actually working like they are supposed to,” Gunderson said. “All the school are ready to go to distance learning if they have to and then bring the kids back as soon as we can. We all know it could get a little bit worse or a whole lot worse, and we’ll just follow our plans and do what we have to do to keep everybody as health and safe as possible.”

Gunderson said the schools’ relationship with the Lassen County Public Health Department has helped immensely

“We’re working very closely with public health,” Gunderson said. “It’s been a great partnership with them and Dr. Korver, being able to have those conversations and obtain the information we need and have the support from them so we can educate the kids. I won’t say it’s been easy, but it’s been a great partnership.”

Gunderson said some school districts have had to make some changes in the way students receive their instruction, but these changes were anticipate and created in advance in determining how the districts should respond if the virus got too close to students or staff for comfort.

“We are continuing to stay our course,” Gunderson said. “The biggest changes for us — we still have Lassen High School on distance learning until after the Thanksgiving break; Diamond View eighth grade cohort; and Big Valley that is closed now through Thanksgiving. We’ve had a couple of cases, so we flipped to distance learning in those cases.”

The schools are working on increasing their “surveillance testing” as required by the state department of public health, and the employee unions will soon start covering those costs.

“The schools have been testing, but now we have to increase it, so we’re working on how to do that,” Gunderson said. “We have to continue with our cleaning, make sure people are still wearing masks, make sure we’re cohorting (keeping students in separated in small isolated groups that in the event of an outbreak), no volunteers or parents on campus — all the things we have been doing.”

Gunderson said she believes the schools will be able to continue even if Lassen County moves into the purple tier, the state’s most restrictive ranking in response to its infection levels unless there are infections on campus that disrupt that program.

One fortunate development for Lassen County is that it will be able to continue in-person learning even if the county rises to higher, more restrictive tier because it began in person learning this year. School districts that never opened for in-person learning must continue with distance learning even if their ranking drops. Some students who don’t have access to computers or the Internet are receiving distance learning on campus at Lassen High School.

“Right now we’re still knocking on wood and keeping our fingers crossed, but it looking like we’re doing good,” Gunderson said. “We know that most of our students get their best education in the classroom. There are a few for whom learning online is very successful, but for more of our students being in school is safe, there’s social interaction and we are fortunate we’re able to continue what we’re doing.”