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By Collin Breaux

At least one person who tested positive for COVID-19 was at the Palisades Elementary School campus from Sept. 18-22, Principal Lisa Baggio said in a letter to school families.

No students were on campus then, and the case was considered a “low risk exposure.”

 “Staff have taken the necessary steps to properly sanitize and clean the campus in preparation for staff and students to return,” Baggio said.

Students began returning to campuses this week in Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). CUSD has implemented a phased return to campus for various grade levels, with students returning to preschool through fifth grade starting on Sept. 29 through Oct. 5. Higher grade levels will return in the coming weeks.

CUSD has health protocols in place if a student or staff member has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. A person showing symptoms—such as fever, cough or loss of taste or smell—will be sent home and advised to get tested, though the classroom and school will remain open.

As for a confirmed case, the school community and local health department will be notified. That person will be excluded from school for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or test date, and exposed contacts will have to quarantine for 14 days after the infected person was at school.

Classrooms and other relevant spaces will be disinfected. The school will remain open.

Teachers and parents who have recently called in to comment during CUSD Board of Trustees meetings have expressed concerns about campus reopenings due to the ongoing pandemic. CUSD teachers have also taken issue with allegedly not being properly consulted about the district’s reopening plan, exacerbated by comments that Board President Jim Reardon made to Voice of OC, in which he, in part, said teachers who contended they weren’t consulted on the reopening plan “weren’t paying attention.”

Joy Schnapper, president of Capistrano Unified Education Association (CUEA), the local teachers’ union, said they see major holes in the plan and schedule that has been dictated.

Schnapper also mentioned an elementary school waiver application that failed, which if approved would have allowed elementary school campuses to remain open even if state guidelines change.

“Time after time, CUEA has asked for true collaboration and to work through this crisis together. The waiver was the quintessential example. In our letter to the district, we specifically asked for a time to sit down and consult on how to open schools properly,” Schnapper said.

“This request was ignored, and instead CUSD disingenuously pushed the waiver through,” she continued. “The failure of the waiver rests entirely on CUSD. Had they engaged in consultation with CUEA, the result may have been different. The shortsighted attempt to circumvent working with teachers led to the county denying the request.”

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