As coronavirus case rates continue to drop in Orange County, students in Huntington Beach have made their way back to campuses for the first time in weeks.
Huntington Beach Union High School District marked the start of the second semester Tuesday with a return to a hybrid learning model. Students had been distance learning exclusively for about a month, since Jan. 4.
Huntington Beach City School District and Ocean View School District also returned to their hybrid models on Monday.
“It was wonderful to see them return in their hybrid schedules, returning and learning in classrooms with their teachers,” OVSD Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer said. “It’s always good to have the kids back in their classrooms … We’re happy to see that the [COVID-19] rates go in the right direction, and we’re committed to keeping in this hybrid schedule and consistency as long as possible.”
Huntington Beach Union High School District, which is home to about 16,000 students, includes Huntington Beach, Edison, Fountain Valley, Marina, Ocean View and Westminster high schools, as well as one continuation, alternative and adult school.
In the current hybrid model, which is optional, HBUSHD students are split into two teams. Everyone is online-only Monday, while Team 1 is on campus Tuesdays and Wednesday and Team 2 on Thursdays and Fridays. Therefore, all students will be on campus twice a week.
“We are thrilled to have our students back on campus,” Edison High Principal Jennifer Graves said in an email. “Having students and staff on campus brings an energy that has been missed. Our hope is that with COVID numbers continuing to decrease, more students choose to return to campus.”
At Fountain Valley, Principal Morgan Smith said that staff arrived early Tuesday in anticipation of students coming back on campus. Huntington Beach High School students leave campus after attending hybrid instruction on Tuesday. “We gave air high-fives, pointed students in the right direction and thanked them for making our days brighter,” Smith said in an email. “Schools just don’t feel the same when schools are not here … We made the rounds to visit classrooms and let our staff and students know we are happy they are back, to have hope, and that each day will be better than the next.”
Huntington Beach City School District Supt. Leisa Winston said the staff and students she saw Monday seemed happy to be back, adding in an email that the district is also expanding opportunities in its distance learning program for families who are not comfortable returning.
Families indeed have a choice if they want to return to campus.
Huntington Beach parent Brooke Hampton said her son Logan, a seventh-grader at Sowers Middle School, is on campus four days a week and enjoying it. But her older children, Tyler and Jillian, a junior and freshman respectively at Edison High, had a less enjoyable experience being back on campus Tuesday and Wednesday.
Brooke Hampton said she wrote an email to a guidance counsellor Wednesday requesting a move of Tyler and Jillian out of the hybrid model and back into solely distance learning. She said Jillian, a straight-A student, had a rough week during finals week last week. She has invested in outside tutors for her children.
“I’m practically paying for private school just to make sure that my kids can get decent grades and stay where they need to be,” Brooke Hampton said. “I know everybody’s just trying to do their best under these circumstances, but it’s scary to know that they’re not necessarily getting the education that they need. The first go-round, [my kids] were so thrilled to go back [to school] … This week, they were excited to go back, but it’s just not the same. My kids only have like four other students in the classroom with them.
“It’s nice that they’re trying to make this happen, but there are so many rules and restrictions in place, which I understand of course … I don’t envy any of them, the kids, the teachers, the staff, the parents. I think it’s hard on everybody.”
Edison High parent Aimee Thiessen, who also has two kids who are Chargers, said she felt differently. Her sons, Jackson Schnoor, a senior, and Jared Schnoor, a freshman, return to campus Thursday.
“All of us are excited to go back,” Thiessen said. “Their overall mood and just family interaction is so much better when they’re in class. It’s a totally different vibe on the days when they’re physically able to go to school, especially for my senior. He feels like he’s missing out on so much, so he’s super excited to go back.”
The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 37 new deaths related to the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the county’s death toll to 3,199 during the pandemic.
There were 546 daily positive COVID-19 tests received, and 234,708 cumulative cases, including deaths.
The county has 1,298 COVID-19 cases currently hospitalized, including 363 in the intensive care unit.
According to the tier framework, Orange County is still clearly in the purple tier for reopening, with an adjusted daily case rate of 39 per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 10.9%. Each of those figures is a seven-day average with a seven-day lag period.
To advance to the red tier, the daily case rate would need to be seven per 100,000 people or fewer, while the test positivity rate needs to be less than 8%.
Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:
- Santa Ana: 42,384 cases; 563 deaths
- Anaheim: 39,163 cases; 591 deaths
- Huntington Beach: 9,583 cases; 153 deaths
- Costa Mesa: 8,211 cases; 87 deaths
- Irvine: 9,426 cases; 54 deaths
- Newport Beach: 3,372 cases; 55 deaths
- Fountain Valley: 3,166 cases; 52 deaths
- Laguna Beach: 738 cases; fewer than five deaths
Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:
- 0 to 17: 23,981 cases; one death
- 18 to 24: 32,551 cases; six deaths
- 25 to 34: 47,144 cases; 34 deaths
- 35 to 44: 36,756 cases; 71 deaths
- 45 to 54: 37,696 cases; 210 deaths
- 55 to 64: 29,410 cases; 423 deaths
- 65 to 74: 14,673 cases; 616 deaths
- 75 to 84: 7,360 cases; 753 deaths
- 85 and older: 4,981 cases; 1,085 deaths