The school year in Santa Ana will start entirely virtual, the Santa Ana Unified School District announced in a press release Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: As Orange County’s only nonprofit & nonpartisan newsroom, Voice of OC brings you the best, most comprehensive local Coronavirus news absolutely free. No ads, no paywalls. We need your help. Please, make a tax-deductible donation today to support your local news.

“This decision comes as the number of COVID-19 cases throughout Santa Ana, and across California and the rest of the country continues to climb at an alarming rate. Thus, a full distance learning model is the safest option for SAUSD students, parents, and staff,” reads the release.

The Santa Ana Unified School District’s board members voted unanimously last week to adopt a plan to reopen schools that allows families the option to have their kids learn entirely virtually from home or come to school on certain days of the week.

At last week’s meeting, board members had emphasized that the plan is very fluid and if the circumstances and numbers around the Coronavirus pandemic change, the district would reevaluate with the possibility of holding all classes online.

Residents of Anaheim and Santa Ana have been hit particularly hard by the virus

The decision to move away from giving families options and making the academic year start completely virtual throughout the city comes on the heels of uproar in Orange County over the County’s Board of Education approval of guidelines for returning to school that advocate for the use of no masks or social distancing in a 4-1 vote on Monday night. 

However it will be up to the individual school districts board’s of education and superintendent to develop plans to reopen that best suits the needs of their communities. 

The district will continue to plan for in-person instruction with safety measures in place to start again when their Board of Education and local and state health care agencies determine it’s safe to do so.

“Making the decision now to shift to a virtual education model gives the District more time to make sure our teachers are fully prepared, our parents are well informed, and our students have access to devices and internet needed for us to deliver the highest quality service during this time,” said the district’s Board of Education President Rigo Rodriguez in the press release.

The district is spending millions of dollars to provide laptops, ipods and hot spots to students so they can take part in virtual learning.

“I don’t understand why we would be considering having teachers and students at school at all,” Ben Vazquez, a teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, told the Voice of OC during a phone interview Monday before the district’s decision. 

“I feel that choice is irresponsible, where you should just take a stand and say we’re not even ready to have that choice yet. It’s not a matter of feeling safe. It’s a matter of being safe,” he added.

Some parents have expressed concern over the quality of education being provided online especially for students with disabilities who are struggling without the hands-on face to face interactions with their teachers. 

Some teachers across Orange County including Vazquez told the Voice of OC that in-person teaching is better and they want to get back into the classroom but emphasized that it’s just not safe right now.

“Life comes first and health comes first,” Vazquez said.

Districts that have approved plans for reopening with options for a hybrid model – in-person instruction on some days of the week and virtual instruction others include the Fullerton School district, Fullerton Joint Union, and Tustin Unified.

Other districts have yet to approve a plan including the Garden Grove Unified and Huntington Beach City school districts. Centralia Elementary School District’s Governing Board is set to vote on a plan Wednesday.

The Anaheim Union High School District is also recommending the year starts up with a full distance learning model.The District Board of Trustees will be voting this Thursday, July 16, to decide on the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 school year. 

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.