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School Classes Resume Amid COVID Concerns
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Hoping that they won’t see a post-holiday break spike in COVID-19 cases – including any of the existing variants – Escalon Unified School District officials reported that students were back in classes on Monday, Jan. 3.

District Superintendent Ron Costa said the return to a normal schedule didn’t include any additional requirements from the CDPH, California Department of Public Health, but they are still following those directives already in place, including the masking of students.

There wasn’t any temperature taking, noted Costa, but with the state requiring masks for all indoor activities at least through Jan. 15, the same holds true on campus for all extra-curricular activities, such as basketball games and wrestling matches.

“Everything is the same,” Costa said.

Also, the high school campus also continues to be a host site for a free rapid COVID test.

“It’s open to anyone,” Costa said of the testing clinic, adding that on Monday, the line for tests appeared to be longer than it had prior to the holidays.

The school district, in cooperation with the San Joaquin County Health Department and Fulgent Genetics, is hosting the COVID-19 testing site at the Escalon High School Performing Arts Center. This is free, rapid COVID testing and the site is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; those attending are asked to enter on the Yosemite Avenue side. They will take drop-ins or you can make an appointment at The site is open to all area residents; it is not limited to the school district, as anyone in the region is eligible to come in for the free rapid COVID-19 testing.

“The clinic is operational and they say it takes (results) about 24 hours,” Costa said of the testing.

And while more people seemed to be standing in line to take advantage of the test after the long holiday season, Costa noted that the school district itself – across all campuses – saw fewer students than normal in class.

“Looking at our schools right now, we seem to have a few more students out today than we did prior to break,” Costa noted late Monday morning. “We don’t know why; it could be they are on an extended winter vacation or they could have (COVID) symptoms.”

About 10 percent of the student population was absent on the first day back from break, Costa said, noting that the percentage was a rough estimate.

He added that represents almost a doubling of the absentee rate coming out of last year’s holiday period.

“We’re just making sure we are following all the CDPH and San Joaquin County protocols; if they do change, we will change to match those requirements,” Costa said.

The school board previously passed a resolution asking the state to not require students to wear masks in class and also went on record as advocating the people’s choice regarding vaccinations.

He said the last school board meeting featured a few people talking about the masking issue and though the board did approve the local resolutions and send them off to Sacramento, it was mostly symbolic.

“The board understands that (concerns over masking and vaccinations) but we are a public school, we are required to follow the public health guidelines,” the superintendent added. “It doesn’t matter what any one person believes, the board members have to act on what’s best for the students and the district.”