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It’s Almost Time to Head Back to School. Most Students Will Need to Wear Masks.



Most students will be required to wear masks in school this fall. (Shutterstock)
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There just might be a little more excitement this year about the first day of school, which for some students will be their first day at a brand new school, and for others will be their first day in school with all their classmates at the same time in more than a year.

Families of school-age children who live in the Fresno city limits will need to pay particular attention to their district’s calendar, because the four districts serving the city are starting classes on four different days: Central Unified on Aug. 11, Fresno Unified on Aug. 12, Clovis Unified on Aug. 16, and Sanger Unified on Aug. 18.

For students who were on virtual learning or hybrid schedules last year, the fall semester will mark the first time they are all back in classrooms at the same time since March 2020 and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Golden Charter Academy, a new Tk-6 charter that is partnering with Fresno Chaffee Zoo, and Madera Unified are both opening on Aug. 9. Golden Charter Academy is leasing an old parochial school site on West Princeton Avenue but plans to build a permanent school closer to the zoo.

On Aug. 11, the first two graduating classes of Central Unified’s new $106 million Justin Garza High School will set foot on campus for their first classes. The high school at Grantland and Ashlan avenues will open with about 1,200 freshman and sophomore students, district spokesman Gilbert Magallon said.

Parents and kids can visit the campus on Aug. 9, with an open house scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The district held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to celebrate the school’s opening.

Mask Rules Still in Effect

Because there will not be social distancing inside classrooms — last year’s hybrid schedules limited the number of students in classrooms to keep them more widely spaced — school districts are following the recommendation of federal, state, and local health officials and are requiring students and staff to wear face masks indoors to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Students and staff who are unable to wear masks for medical, mental health and disability reasons will need to obtain an exemption from a medical professional. For Clovis Unified students, parents may self-attest as to their child’s need to be mask-free in class as a result of the School Board’s vote last week.

For collegiate level students in the Valley, classes will be a mix of online and in-person, instead of mostly online as they were for more than a year.

Fresno State students and staff who want to attend class on campus will need to show proof of vaccination for the coronavirus, the California State University system announced last week. All certifications must be completed by Sept. 30.

The university is holding on-campus vaccine clinics at the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery and Residence Dining Hall starting Aug. 9. Click here for the schedule.

State Center students are encouraged but not required to be vaccinated, district spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz said. On Monday, Interim Chancellor Douglas Houston announced in a message to the district that starting Wednesday face coverings will be required when students, staff, and visitors are inside buildings. The exception is when a person is alone in an office.

Teens Eligible for Vaccinations

Meanwhile, school districts are in consultation with the Fresno County Department of Public Health about arranging coronavirus vaccination clinics for teen students. As part of the federal government’s push to increase vaccination rates among younger people, President Joe Biden last week called on school districts to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic in coming weeks and promised to release additional resources to aid them in vaccination efforts.

Clovis Unified is still in discussions with county health officials about the best avenues to provide vaccination clinics for teens, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said. None have yet been scheduled, she said.

Fresno Unified is continuing to be the host site for vaccination clinics overseen by community health providers. Children who are under 18 must have a parent present to be vaccinated, spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said.

On Friday the district sent out its return to school health and safety guidance that outlines the safety protocols in effect, including wearing masks and contact tracing in the event of a positive COVID-19 test. The district is extending the school day by 30 minutes as part of efforts to help students close any learning gaps from last year.

Central Unified has scheduled a vaccination clinic for students that will include the COVID-19 vaccine. The clinic will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Granville Teague Community Resource Center, 4718 N. Polk Ave. Children will need a parent or guardian present and must be either enrolled in Medi-Cal, have no insurance, be underinsured (no vaccine coverage), or be American Indian or Native Alaskan.

The second COVID-19 dose is scheduled for Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the community center.

First Day of Classes

Aug. 9: Golden Charter Academy of Fresno, Madera Unified, State Center Community College District (Fresno City College, Clovis Community College, Reedley College, Madera Community College, Oakhurst Center)

Aug. 11: Central Unified

Aug. 12: Fresno Unified, Visalia Unified

Aug. 16: Clovis Unified

Aug. 17: Fresno State

Aug. 18: Sanger Unified

Aug. 23: Fresno Pacific

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email