PALMDALE — Palmdale School District will open four schools — Palmdale Discovery Center, First Steps preschool, Oak Tree Learning Center and Yellen Learning Center — for small groups of students on Monday.
The District held COVID-19 vaccine clinics for employees on Wednesday and Friday at SAGE Magnet Academy to help prepare for reopening campuses.
Palmdale partnered with Amwest Ambulance for the vaccination clinic for employees. The District received 550 doses of the Moderna vaccine, with some allocated for two charter schools. As the authorizing agency for The Palmdale Aerospace Academy and Antelope Valley Learning Academy, the District will make vaccines available to each staff.
The District has about 3,000 employees. It received an additional 700 doses of the vaccine that will be used for two additional vaccine clinics this week.
Donna Campbell, assistant superintendent of Special Education/Student Services, said employees have the option to get the vaccine wherever they can book an appointment.
“A lot of our employees have been vaccinated,” Campbell said.
Campbell worked with Julie Ferebee, director of Health Services who is also a registered nurse, to set up the clinics.
“We had a great turnout,” Campbell said. “Everybody was really, really pleased. We’re just making sure that we’re taking care of employees so that when we reopen we do it right.”
Employees sign up through PrepMod for an appointment. They will receive the Moderna vaccine in two doses a month apart.
Emily Moran, a program specialist for First Steps, said they are excited to welcome students back to campus.
“We’ve had our students coming in for special education services, and now we will be able to open in a larger capacity than what we’ve already been operating under,” Moran said. “We are definitely looking forward to having our students return.”
First Steps is a special education preschool program next to the Ocotillo Elementary School campus. The preschool will open at full capacity.
“Because we’re a special education program, our small numbers fit within the guidelines. We have to make some safety modification but we’re able to welcome back our entire campus,” Moran said.
First Steps has 225 students in a variety of programs. Approximately 150 students will return to campus. The school already operated on a split schedule prior to the start of the pandemic with one group of students attending a morning session and another group of students attending an afternoon session. Class sizes average about 10 students per class.
Yellen Learning Center, another special education school, will welcome about 32 students back on Monday. The school had children come in for in-person services previously. Classrooms are limited to six students each.
“We are looking forward to welcoming our students back,” secretary Christina Contreras said. “We’ve really missed them. We know that being in-person on-site is the best place for them, so we are looking forward to having them come back, definitely. We’ve heard that also expressed by their parents and by the students themselves.”
Oak Tree Principal Fred Gatlin said they are excited to welcome students back to campus.
“My main concern here was making sure we are ready and we have all our safety protocols in order for our kids and our teachers when they come back,” Gatlin said.
Oak Tree is a school for students who have been expelled from other schools, or are on administrative placement. The school serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. However, only students in kindergarten through sixth grade will return to campus.
Each classroom has hand sanitizers and extra masks. The desks have shields attached to them and are placed six feet apart.
“The good thing about us, we’re a small campus,” Gatlin said. “We have between three to six kids in each class.”
Each student will also have their own table for breakfast and lunch. The will welcome 18 students back to campus. School administrators surveyed families to see how many were open to have their students continue distance learning, or to return to campus. Ten families chose distance learning.
“I believe that in-person teaching is the best, of course,” Gatlin said.
Campbell said a many parents at Oak Tree and Yellen wanted their seventh- and eighth-grade students to return.
However, under current state guidelines, only students in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade are allowed to return to class.