Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

Citing advice from its lawyers, Rancho Christian School announced on Tuesday, July 21 that the Temecula K-12 private school plans to open the school year on Aug. 19 with an in-person learning option for students. 

In an email and website posting by President Scott Treadway, Secondary School Principal Jerry Stayton, and Elementary School Principal Mary Kathryn Boucher, the posting reads: “Our team of attorneys have made it clear to us that Rancho is free to open school on-site, on time,” it reads. “We are fully prepared to open school on campus this fall for families that choose this option.”

On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all school campuses to remain closed when the academic year begins in counties on the state’s monitoring list due to spiking coronavirus cases — including Riverside County.

That meant that all public, private, and charter schools in the county were required to begin the school year with online options only for student learning. 

Newsom said school campuses will only be allowed to open in counties that have been off the state’s monitoring list for at least 14 days. Counties are placed on the monitoring list based on a variety of factors, including coronavirus positivity, testing, and hospitalization rates. As of last week, 32 California counties were on the list.

Several studies suggest but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected with COVID-19 than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms, according to the Associated Press.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions. That is the biggest challenge,” Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a pediatrics professor at the University of Florida and former scientist at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press last week.

The email post sent by Rancho Christian has a different view. 

“Study after study confirms that children are not impacted by COVID nearly as much as older adults, yet for the sake of staff, parents, and even grandparents, best-practice safety measures will be employed as they are now with Rancho Preschool and Rancho Elementary Enrichment, which have been open and thriving all summer,” the post reads. “Our preschool and elementary enrichment students have been having a blast all summer on our open campus, and we set a record for summer enrollment.”

According to the post, Rancho Christian has situated all classrooms with a “normal feel while meeting safety standards.”

“Due to our thriving on-site summer programs, Rancho is expert at running a comfortable, active, fun on-site learning environment within sanitation protocols,” the post reads. “There are strict sanitizing procedures between student groups, hand washing schedules, and hand sanitizers in every room.”

The school said it has flexibility in classroom setups, large multipurpose rooms, and outdoor environments to create more flexibility for “academic and co-curricular activities and programs on-site within safety protocols.”

The school said it has a detailed plan for outdoor breaks and lunch. 

Valley News has reached out to Rancho Christian’s school leadership team for questions regarding whether or not students or staff will be required to wear masks, if temperatures will be taken at the school, and the reporting processes in an instance where a positive COVID-19 case is reported in a student or staff member. 

The post said that the school hopes it will not be mandated to be limited to online learning only, “but we are fully prepared to deliver the region’s premier online experience for families that choose online education. Our faculty will receive all the equipment, training, and daily support they need to deliver an exceptional, personalized, caring and God-honoring education for every student.”

The post suggested that if there is a mandate for private schools to go online exclusively — “which is not the current reality,” the post reads — the school will offer an on-site option for working parents who need childcare. 

“Teachers will deliver a visually ‘normal’ school experience with exceptional image quality and audio quality from their classroom and will allow them to participate in online education in a supervised, social, and fun environment,” the post reads. 

For more information, visit ranchochristian.org.

City News Service and Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.