Blustery gusts of chilly air and swirling autumn leaves provided a fitting backdrop for the winds of change moving through St. Maria Goretti School Monday morning.

From a line of cars stretching across the campus, parents dropped off young students sporting new uniforms, backpacks, and face masks as the Long Beach school on Oct. 26 became the first Catholic school in Los Angeles County to reopen for in-person instruction since the coronavirus (Covid-19) shutdown last March.

After scanning their students’ foreheads with digital thermometers, face-masked teachers welcomed them into sanitized classrooms, where desks were spaced 6 feet apart and, per some parents’ request, were outfitted with plexiglass partitions.

It was a historic moment for Maria Goretti’s principal, teachers, and staff, who have been working since last spring on a plan for safe, on-site learning….

Guidelines set by LA County only allowing in-person instruction for TK through second grade to return to campus meant that about 40 of the school’s 170 enrolled students came back on Monday.

The TK and kindergarten students will receive full-time in-person instruction, while first- and second-graders will follow a hybrid schedule. Students also have the option of continuing remote learning from home, which began in late August for the new academic year.

The school’s return to campus was thanks to a streamlined LA County waiver program approved Sept. 29. The program allows public and private schools to apply for waivers for in-person instruction of students in grades TK through second if they meet certain criteria. A maximum of 30 schools will be permitted to open each week.

Because LA County remains in the purple (highest risk) tier, in California’s color-coded system, a fuller reopening of schools is still not allowed until the county’s Covid-19 metrics improve to the less restrictive “red” tier and remains there for at least two weeks, as has been the case in neighboring Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Orange counties.

As of last week, 110 public and private schools in LA County had applied for waivers, 36 of which are Catholic schools. Holy Angels in Arcadia also recently won waiver approval and is preparing to start in-person instruction Nov. 10….

The above comes from an Oct. 27 story in Angelus News.