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Huntington Beach Union High School District Reopens Schools for In-Person Instruction

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After several months of remote instruction due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD) granted around 16,000 high school students the option to return to in-person instruction beginning Nov. 3.

Now operating with a hybrid learning model, the district is giving students and faculty the choice to either continue online learning or physically attend instruction. A district-wide poll conducted by HBUHSD found that around 55% of students and 75% of faculty opted to return to campus in person.

“By giving teachers the option to provide instruction remotely, the district is able to keep the content in the classroom for specific areas that are difficult to find substitute teachers; such as world languages, mathematics, or sciences,” HBUHSD Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Carolee Ogata said in a statement

Under this system, also known as a cohort model, each of the seven HBUHSD schools has divided students who opted to return in person into two groups. While both cohorts attend on-campus instruction, the two groups alternate between Tuesday/Wednesday sessions and Thursday/Friday sessions.

The schools are set to closely follow COVID-19 protocol, including increased classroom disinfection, newly added hand sanitizing stations, shields for teachers and improved air filters. It is also mandatory for all students and faculty to wear face masks while practicing physical distancing guidelines.

“Our staff has done an outstanding job redesigning classrooms while continuing to provide high-quality instruction and support services in a completely new environment in the midst of a global pandemic,” HBUHSD Superintendent Clint Harwick said in a statement by the district.

This reopening plan follows the rise of COVID-19 cases in Orange County, which has reached a cumulative number of 69,694 cases on Nov. 22 according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The county has already begun experiencing a second wave of peak-high coronavirus cases this season, and local health experts anticipate a steady increase in infections throughout the winter months.

In order to track any confirmed cases among its students and faculty, the HBUHSD has created a COVID-19 dashboard.

While the HBUHSD has confirmed 14 COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 22, the nearby Newport-Mesa Unified School District has reported 25 cases districtwide since six of its secondary schools returned to a hybrid model of instruction on Nov. 9.

“Most of Orange County schools are in a hybrid situation, they’re certainly not fully open. Schools play a role, at least in the flu. A lot about what we know in seasonal diseases is extrapolated from the flu,” UCI epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said to the Voice of OC.

According to Noymer, “We’re already seeing second waves. We’re going to be seeing something quite similar, in fact.”

Ariana Keshishian is a City News Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. She can be reached at ankeshis@uci.edu.