Lemoore High School students gather Monday morning in student parking lot advocating for early return to school

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore High School's Janson Cunningham (working on a laptop) and others want to return to school and protested the district's decision to fully open by January.
Lemoore High School's Janson Cunningham (working on a laptop) and others want to return to school and protested the district's decision to fully open by January.

Approximately 20 Lemoore High School students, protesting the school district’s decision to delay the school’s expected official reopening until January 11, decided to show up for school on Monday ( Nov. 2) anyway, several with laptops and all wearing protective facemasks.

The students – and their parents – say they’re ready to return to school. The small but committed group set up chairs and awnings in the school’s student parking lot, most opening laptops while a small contingent of parents stood by. A local television news cameraman even showed up Monday morning at about 9:30 a.m.

“I came out here today because I feel like it’s not right that we’re not able to go back to school when all the other schools around us are, and it’s more of like us not being brought back because of what our superintendent thinks,” said Janson Cunningham, a senior who wants to return to class. "I’m losing out on most of my senior year,” he lamented.

Cunningham has his eyes set on college. “I’m hoping to attend a four-year university studying in education and give back by becoming a teacher.”

According to school officials, via the Lemoore Union High School District website, the proposed timeline for bringing students back to school revolves around the turn of the new year. School officials set a goal of reopening campus on Jan. 11.

School officials intend to return students to campus in stages to ensure that all of the precautions that are have in place will ensure everyone’s safety.

“It was a very tough decision for the (school) board,” said the district’s superintendent, Debbie Muro. “We do understand that we have parents who want their children to return to school in person as soon as possible, and that we also have parents who want to wait until it is safer to do,” she said.

Muro told The Leader that it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that a safe environment exists for them to return to. “We have begun bringing groups of students on campus gradually to ensure that we can do so safely and will be increasing the number of students on campus the week of November 9.

“We will be bringing all students back onto campus the week of January 11 in a hybrid schedule with a great deal of safety precautions in place.”

Lemoore High School District officials, via their website, said that the proposed timeline would allow the district and students to “get past the flu and holiday seasons,” which could spike COVID-19 cases, possibly forcing the district to close down before winter break.

However, other school districts have reopened, including Lemoore Union Elementary School District, which began transitioning transitional kindergarten and first-grade students back to class on October 19. Other elementary grades were expected to begin classes on November 2.

Kings County’s other major high school district, Hanford Joint Union High School District, according to its website, is “on a path to reopen on November 9.” Hanford schools, however, will not bring back students to a traditional five-days per week schedule. Instead, the district has developed a Plan B Hybrid Model, dividing schools’ student body into two cohorts.

For example, one cohort of students will attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays while the second cohort, Cohort B, will work from home. Conversely, Cohort B will attend classes on Thursdays and Friday while Cohort A works from home. All students work from home on Wednesdays.

One parent, who attended the students’ gathering in the high school’s vast student parking lot, said the idea of the gathering was to let the kids and the parents have their voices heard, said Nicole Meyer. “There have been board meetings, and parents have (related) their concerns, and we feel as if we really haven’t been listened to. All the schools in our area are opening except for the high school, so we feel like our kids are getting a disservice as far as getting their chance to go back to school.”

According to Meyer, district officials are well aware of their feelings about returning to school. “They all know we’re upset, and they know that this is happening,” she said. “I feel like parents and students were not given a voice. So, this is their opportunity say hey, we want to go back to school. We feel ready. At least let us make their decision.” 

Many Kings County schools are opening. In addition to Hanford, Corcoran Unified School District campuses are expected to open on Monday, November 9. The Corcoran district says it will work with the Kings County Department of Public Health to approach its reopening with the necessary precautions to keep students, teachers, and staff safe. 

Lemoore’s Central Union Elementary District was expected to begin bringing students back in phases beginning with Transitional Kindergarten through second grade returning on Monday, Nov. 2. On November 30, the district’s schools plan to bring back grades 3-5 before shutting down for Christmas break, and if all goes according to plan, all grades will resume classes by January 11.

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