(KGTV) -- Rios Elementary School in the Cajon Valley Union School District is one of only a few districts that took advantage of the state waiver program to reopen for in-person learning this fall and is the largest in the state to qualify for one.
More than 200 students attend Rios in-person, five days a week.
Principal Liz Loether says despite low case numbers, they're seeing the effects of Covid, and they're trying their best to help students cope as they get back to school, but still face the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Loether says those symptoms are showing up as social-emotional difficulties, reactions to frustration, levels of patience, and learning loss.
At Rios they've leveraged the resource of extra space to spread out their more than two hundred kids. They have teachers rotate instead of kids to minimize contact outside cohorts.
Another resource is technology. Rios was the first computer science elementary school in the country, and several years ago, the superintendent made it a priority for each of the 17-thousand students in CVUSD to have a Chromebook computer.
It proved to be crucial foresight when the pandemic left many other districts scrambling to get tablets and computers into students' hands.
It also meant none of the money schools got from the government was needed to buy computers.
"It did give Cajon Valley an advantage," says Board of Trustees Vice-President Jim Miller. Miller also says to qualify for the waiver to reopen, significant planning and coordination were required, with parents and with the teachers' union.
Both Miller and the superintendent, Dr. David Miyashira, talked about trust and a sense of the community "buying-in" to the push to go back to school in person this fall.
In CVUSD schools, two out of three students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals, and many of the parents are frontline or essential workers.
Many Cajon Valley schools are open in a hybrid model, but there are several like Rios which are open five days. Some of the schools are providing full-day free daycare as well for frontline workers and for school staff.
Roughly 20% of families have opted to do online learning full-time, but overall, the feedback they've received, he says, has been very positive.
He adds that they've heard from districts across the country who have asked for advice on how to replicate their model successfully.
"I'm personally very proud of Cajon Valley," says Miller.