At the end of September, the schools in Eastern Santa Cruz County represent a mixed bag of reopening phases.

Patagonia Schools moved from distance to hybrid learning on September 28, with the middle, high, and preschool grades on campus several days a week and elementary students on campus full-time.

Elgin School has been holding classes with students on campus since August 31.

Patagonia Montessori School began in-person instruction on September 8.

All the local schools continue to provide the option of distance learning for families who prefer it.

Deciding which model is safe and appropriate has been an ongoing discussion between school and public health leaders and Mariposa Community Clinic staff that included state benchmarks for reopening, adaptations to facilities, and class sizes.

Elgin Principal Mary Faley reports that most of the school community was comfortable coming back in person, based on their low class sizes, and keeping each grade level isolated from others throughout the day. Art teacher Anna Coleman has adapted by holding classes outside and providing each student with a lap desk and toolkit. There have been no cases of COVID19 attributed to their reopening. Elgin School has tentatively scheduled COVID testing on October 24 date for the school community and the public.

Currently, about 15 percent of Elgin students have opted to continue distance learning. Callie Mattus, second grade teacher, says these students participate with the class via Zoom and can connect with their teachers virtually during office hours.

Patagonia Schools Superintendent Kenny Hayes has kept the community up-to-date with a virtual open house and a Q&A session before bringing students back on campus. Mariposa Community Clinic provided free COVID testing at the school in August. At PUHS, coed soccer and girls’ volleyball have begun in person. Athletic Director and History teacher Nate Porter says student athletes and their parents are thrilled and grateful to be back. “Team sports are so important for kids’ physical and mental health, especially right now when some of their healthy outlets have been limited. It was worth all the safety measures we had to take to get here.”

Staff conducted research and consulted with school sports organizations to decide how to move forward. Athletes were COVID19-tested before starting, and temperatures are checked each day. The teams began their closed practice sessions with very strict rules, including masks whenever not exerting and coaches masked at all times. Their first inter-scholastic games were scheduled for September 28 and 29. The games were played without fans in attendance.

As for his PUHS History classes, Mr. Porter is pleased. “I can’t believe how well distance learning has gone – considering. I’ve been impressed with students’ attendance and engagement across the computer screen. But, we’re really excited to be face-to-face.”