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Back to School Post-Pandemic

When school resumes this fall, students anticipate returning to the classroom and, hopefully, a sense of normalcy. Local schools and educators share their plans for a post-pandemic return to in-person learning.

Public Schools

Conejo Valley Unified School District, 1st Day: August 18

CVUSD plans to begin the 2021-2022 school year with a return to full-day, on-campus (pre-COVID) learning schedules for students in all grades. Eager to welcome TK-12th grader back to campus with adherence to the health and safety guidance from county and state officials, CVUSD staff will continue to innovate and adjust to best support students' academic, extracurricular and social-emotional needs.

Access to additional mental health supports and services will be key. Students will have access to trained mental health experts to fully support their mental and physical well-being. Additionally, Wellness Centers will launch at all CVUSD high school sites. These Centers will be open every school day between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., staffed with Wellness Trainees to establish a support structure on high school campuses focused on students’ mental health development and needs.

Academically, CVUSD strives to not just return to a standard day of learning but to reimagine how its schools can provide additional, new support to address learning loss and accelerate understanding of material throughout the 2021-2022 school year. CVUSD will do this by increasing staffing to eliminate combination classes at the elementary level and to reduce class sizes for middle and high school core classes, including Math, Science and Social Science. The CVUSD also plans to offer its award-winning athletic, music and art programs, along with extensive student club offerings to provide opportunities for students with similar interests to connect.

The CVUSD recognizes that choices related to a student’s preferred learning model and location remain important to students and families. As such, the District will continue to offer its SHINE Homeschool, a “future ready” personalized learning model to students in grades TK-12. This personalized and flexible approach offers grade-appropriate curriculum options, with parents directing their student’s daily instruction with a weekly in-person or live-virtual meeting with a CVUSD teacher. CVUSD’s Century Academy provides students in Grades 6-12 with personalized online curriculum, on-campus small group courses and academic advising. The backbone of Century’s model is a remote “hybrid” teaching methodology that combines traditional classroom methods and independent study. CVUSD will also provide Traditional Independent Study for students in Grades 6-12 and is evaluating the development of an Independent Study Conejo Virtual Program for Grades TK-12, based on guidance from the Governor and California Department of Education about what type of virtual program public school districts may be permitted to provide students.

The majority of CVUSD students intend to return to campus for in-person, full day learning, but regardless of the learning model students select, CVUSD’s trained and dedicated staff will be ready to welcome students back with individualized support to achieve a successful 2021-2022 school year and beyond.

Oak Park Unified School District, 1st Day: August 9

Oak Park USD will offer regular in-person instruction at all schools and follow guidance from the state that requires districts to offer in-person instruction “to the greatest extent possible.” Brookside, Oak Hills, Red Oak, Medea Creek, Oak Park HS and Oak View HS will all have in-person instruction, with COVID-19 safety measures in place. The District will also offer a remote learning option for students in Grades DK-12 whose parents or guardians feel their health would be put at risk by in-person instruction. 

The District’s remote learning option at Oak Park Independent School is based on Oak Park USD’s curricula and California State Standards and follows a structured independent study curriculum where students meet one-on-one or in small groups with the teacher in a remote setting. 

Oak Park USD has been carefully reviewing and following the K-12 Schools Outlook for the 2021-22 School Year information provided on California Department of Public Health’s CA Safe Schools for All Hub. The district has experienced zero in-school transmission of COVID-19 since they opened for hybrid instruction in February. Students and staff are expected to continue wearing masks when they return to in-person instruction, however, this policy will be determined based on the most current guidance from CDPH.  

As some students have not been on campus since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Oak Park USD’s Summer Enrichment Resources website ( was created to help prepare students for the transition to in-person learning. 

“The opportunity to return to in-person learning and reconnect with our classmates, colleagues, coworkers and families is truly energizing,” says Superintendent Jeff Davis. “I am confident that our focus on a Climate of Care, wellness and academic excellence will prove beneficial to all as we re-engage in school this year. We appreciate that our parents place their children in our trust each day, knowing their children will have daily meaningful learning experiences that will lead to their development as compassionate, creative, capable, responsible, happy and caring people who will thrive during their time in Oak Park and into their adult years.” 

Private & Religious Schools

La Reina, 1st Day: August 9 (New Students) &August 10

As the only Catholic high school in the Los Angeles Archdiocese to fully open in October 2020, with in-person 5-day-a-week instruction, La Reina will continue in-person instruction without a hybrid option in the 2021-22 school year. The school day will return to a modified block schedule, which is most beneficial to student success.

La Reina’s educators continue to refine their pedagogical practices and confidently utilize Universal Design for Learning. A universally designed lesson and classroom works to reduce barriers to learning, providing an inclusive environment and experience for all students, including those that are exceptionally gifted and those that learn differently. Teachers are facilitators of the content in their classroom, supporting students as they grapple and grow in their capacity to tackle complex tasks and higher level thinking. La Reina’s Dean of Campus Life in collaboration with the Counseling Department and Dean of Mission are working closely to enhance current programs and prepare thoughtfully designed activities to support student wellness as they transition into the new school year.

La Reina continues to closely follow and implement all COVID-19 health and safety measures developed by the CDC, California Department of Public Health, and Ventura County Public Health.

As La Reina faculty and staff are busily preparing to embrace the new school year, they want students to know that their school home is an area of academic support, safety and wellness. 

“As educators, we are here to meet student need, partner with families and create a secure space where students can flourish in both their friendships and academics,” says Principal Maggie Marschner.  

Students and their families can plan for the upcoming school year by engaging in routines that help develop new habits. This can be as simple as setting your alarm in the morning to go on a walk at the same time every day or giving yourself the goal of reading 10 pages a day in a new book. Setting small, attainable goals leads to new habits and routines. Students should also take the time to read through emails and notices regarding the upcoming school year with family or friends to get familiar with the material and alleviate any questions or fears. 

“Taking the time to engage in these small yet important steps will help prepare students for an optimal school experience in the 2021-22 school year,” says Marschner.

Oaks Christian, 1st Day: August 12

School is being planned to be fully in person, and students who are not comfortable with attending in person or have a medical reason may choose a hybrid or remote learning option using OWL cameras to join the classroom digitally in real time from home. Students may also opt for a full-online program.

To help students transition back to the classroom, Oaks Christian has created a new, simple and flexible schedule that can pivot seamlessly between remote and in-person learning. 

Reducing class sizes from between 16 and 17 students to 12 or 13 students and hiring social-emotional wellness counselors aim to ease anxiety and enhance well-being.

Oaks Christian’s many safety precautions, guidelines and procedures to ensure optimal health include installing an air purification system; campus-wide custom signage and traffic flow; plexiglass barriers; reduction of campus visitors; health screenings; thermal graphic temperature scanners and hand sanitation stations; pre-ordered lunches; contact tracing; reduced touchpoints in restrooms and drinking fountains; reworked class schedules and additional new class sections to ensure social distance requirements, as well as increased number of faculty to reduce the teacher to student ratio to 1:15.

“Our highest priority has always been, and continues to be, to safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, incorporating the best practices, procedures and protocols while striving to operate with a spirit of stewardship, love and consideration towards each other,” says Head of School Rob Black. “We have made adjustments and accommodations to ensure this. We are looking forward to many of our events returning in person as allowed by county guidelines and a full, robust academic, artistic and athletic experience for our students.”

Students are advised to stay positive and excited about this coming school year and come ready to learn and reconnect with peers! 

“The administration, faculty and staff are doing and have done everything possible to create an environment where students can thrive,” Black adds.

One Spark Academy, 1st Day: August 23

One Spark Academy will be offering in-person classes at full capacity (our class sizes are small—8 students on average), with outdoor and online options. Core instruction will be in person. 

“We can flex easily, however! Should the need arise, we can easily move back online and outdoors,” says Executive Director and Educator Lori Peters, noting, “We will resume our full Participant Agreement which asks students to commit to not using their technology for personal reasons during the instructional day. Our distraction-free classrooms and ‘tech-free’ breaks help foster deeper friendships, engagement and mental wellness.” 

In order to help students ease back to campus, One Spark Academy’s first Session (7 weeks) will include more study sessions than usual to support student learning and study skills. 

“We’ll also have more focus on social-emotional connection than we already do and plenty of hands-on learning,” says Peters. “We plan to ‘ease in’. Students who miss class due to illness or stress will find a soft place to land in ‘catching up’.” 

Regarding COVID-19 safety, One Spark Academy’s staff follows any guidelines set forth by the local departments of public health and are fully vaccinated against COVID. 

Students concerned about the upcoming school year should know that wherever they are academically “IS OKAY,” Peters emphasizes. “While some students thrived with online learning, many didn’t. It was a stressful year, students missed their friends and many had difficulty staying engaged with online lessons. Some had family circumstances that kept them indoors or isolated most of the year. We hear a lot of people worried that students ‘fell behind’ or that they somehow need to ‘catch up’. But we want to assure students that there is nothing wrong with them if they had a tough year and couldn’t learn as well. All students will arrive at One Spark being accepted where they are, and we will work together to move forward.” 

Students can prepare for the upcoming school year by “getting adequate rest, adding more healthy foods to their diets, being outdoors, being creative, moving their bodies and taking long breaks from their technology (especially at night!),” advises Peters, adding, “All these habits will help students build a positive outlook, and in turn they will be more fully present for a kind, collaborative and productive year of learning.”

St. Paschal Baylon School, 1st Day: August 25 

St. Paschal Baylon will continue to offer full-time in-person education five days a week, as it has throughout the COVID-19 crisis, says Principal Ryan Bushore. 

“We were very fortunate that we figured out ways to make it work,” says Bushore, noting the credit “goes to the incredible teachers who made it happen.” 

Adhering to state and county safety and health guidelines, school staff split classes into smaller groups of about 20 students in the lower grades and departmentalized the junior high classes so teachers rotated to the students’ classrooms. 

School staff also addressed social-emotional learning by dedicating time each week after Friday morning Mass to work on issues like self-esteem and social-emotional awareness, an emphasis that is equally important to academics, Bushore notes.

With an aim to “Put the joy back in school,” Bushore hopes students will enjoy the broad array of 25 elective classes to choose from, including foreign language, art, music, drama, cooking and financial literacy.

Most importantly, this upcoming school year, students should “be themselves and find something you love and are passionate about,” says Bushore, who is excited for students to be able to see each other’s faces again. “They haven’t been able to read faces, so seeing a smile, that’s important.” 

He advises students to prepare for the new school year by enjoying their summer to the fullest.

“We didn’t offer summer school, as we didn’t have that loss of learning,” Bushore explains. So “take a break, go outside and come back refreshed and ready to learn.” 

Villanova Preparatory School, 1st Day: August 18

Villanova will offer fully in-person instruction and is re-introducing their five-day boarding program. 

“As a boarding school, we have students from 17 different countries who board full-time, but we also have several local students,” says Director of Marketing John Coffey. “Many of our students from Los Angeles are five-day boarders who live in the dorm during the week and then go home to their families on the weekends. This wasn’t possible last year as we had to establish a family unit in the dorm and thus required all students to be full boarders. We are excited to be able to offer this unique program once again.” 

Villanova’s three school counsellors have been working to support students embrace the changes of the past year. 

“They have also done a fantastic job of training the faculty on how to help students find a sense of purpose in their lives,” says Coffey, pointing to the success of the year-long “Project Wayfinder.” 

Regarding health and safety, Villanova will continue to follow school guidelines recommended by the State of California and the CDC. 

Villanova Preparatory School students “should know that we see them,” says Coffey. “Educators understand how hard this past year and a half has been, and we are determined to reward their perseverance with one of the best school years ever. Sports and extracurricular activities are back in full swing and students will never be so happy to be back at school after a summer break as this year!” 

Students can prepare for an optimal school experience by setting attainable goals for themselves before the year begins. Coffey advises students to set a small goal each week, a bigger goal each quarter and some really inspiring goals for the year. 

“They should remind themselves of their goals on a daily basis and measure their progress. This can really change the outcome of the whole year,” he adds.

Alternative Learning Programs & Resources

Children’s Therapy Network, Year-round 

Children’s Therapy Network is a certified non-public agency that independently contracts with public, private and independent or home schools to provide Speech, Physical and Occupational therapy services for ages 0 to 21.

Offering customizable schedules based on the needs and preferences of the families served, Children’s Therapy Network operates multiple locations as a Certified Tele-Health Clinic, offering in-person, virtual or hybrid therapy programs that fit the schedules and comfort levels of parents and their children. 

Embracing parent education as a core value, Children’s Therapy Network teaches parents how to support their children both inside and outside of therapy sessions. 

“This holistic approach helps children and their families successfully transition therapy session curriculum to real-life circumstances,” says Clinic Owner and CEO Cassie Woods, DPT, PT, CEO, adding that CTN also serves children on the spectrum. “Families can take comfort in knowing we are an Autism-Certified clinic and all of our therapists are certified to treat children with autism.”

Adhering to health guidelines for cleanliness and sanitization is standard practice at Children’s Therapy Network, where COVID-19 safety protocols include facemasks, no shoes in-clinic, consistent handwashing and sanitization for all therapists, staff and clients. In addition, temperature checks and virtual Tele-Health sessions ensure community health and safety.

Children’s Therapy Network supports children of all abilities, “regardless of if we are treating them though insurance or through the schools,” says Woods. “Our job is to support the schools in providing therapy for their students. If parents feel a school is needing additional support in providing therapy services to students, we are a certified nonpublic agency that contracts with any school in California.”

Students and families at Children’s Therapy Network can take comfort in knowing their therapists are well-versed in school requirements. 

“We have the flexibility and creativity to individualize and customize each therapy session because we are an independent contractor and a nonpublic agency. These factors will all assist in providing students with an optimal, in-school therapy experience,” emphasizes Woods.

Elite Prep, Year-round

Serving Grades 5-12, Elite Prep guides students on an academic path to get into the college of their dreams. From help writing the important college essay, tutoring to boost GPA, preparing AP/SAT/ACT tests and providing dual enrollment for extra credit, Elite Prep helps students navigate the road to college admissions. 

Services include the following:

  • Tutoring English, Math, Science, History
  • AP, SAT, ACT Standardized Test Preparation
  • College Admission Counseling
  • Extracurricular Exploration and more.

Kumon Math and Reading, Year-round 

Kumon Math and Reading students have the option to continue taking classes throughout the summer. Online classes are offered throughout the morning and afternoon, and in-person classes take place in the afternoon. 

“We will continue to offer a hybrid of both while operating our center at a capacity to be determined by CDC guidelines,” says instructor Tetsu Hoshi, adding that “Handwriting, mathematic steps, and spelling are things that are much easier to keep track of when working in person. It helps students to recognize what mistakes they may be making when immediate feedback is offered on their studies.”

Safety accommodations include face coverings and limited seating/social distancing, as well as requesting students come to class with their own pencils and supplies and avoid wandering around the classroom, as well as remaining in their assigned seating when in the classroom.

Kumon students should be prepared to “review a lot of what has been missed in the last school year,” Hoshi advises. “While teachers have done their best to keep up with the curriculum, distance learning, limited schedules and a lack of peer learning means it's been nearly impossible to keep up with the past year's school year curriculum.” 

In addition, “Students should be ready for day-to-day changes,” says Tetsu, noting that changing infection and immunization numbers mean “it's entirely possible that schools go from shortened schedules to full classes before we're ready for them. Stay vigilant!”

Personalized College Choice, Year-round 

With the return to school and in-person activities, high school students should be aware of the many ways they can improve their chances for college acceptance. 

Personalized College Choice Independent Educational Consultant Karen S. Smith, M.A., M.S. Ed., offers advice for college-bound students:

  • Take rigorous courses, such as Honors and AP, to the best of your ability
  • Pursue extracurricular activities of interest and assume leadership roles if possible. This may include clubs, athletics and school leadership
  • Look for in-person volunteer, internship or work experiences in your areas of interest
  • Connect with your teachers in order to be able to ask them for Letters of Recommendation for college applications
  • Be sure to keep track of the hours you spend participating in activities, in order to have accurate records for college applications.

Stowell Learning Center, Year-round 

Stowell Learning Center’s focus is on the skills that make learning easy, says Founder and Executive Director Jill Stowell, noting that “30% of students are missing some of those skills. The last year has really demonstrated to parents that certain skills need to be built or strengthened so that learning becomes easier.”

Helping students permanently solve Dyslexia, auditory processing, comprehension, executive function, learning disabilities, ADHD and memory issues, Stowell Learning Center aims to eliminate barriers to learning. 

“When these conditions are dealt with, reading, writing, spelling, math, schoolwork and homework all get MUCH easier,” emphasizes Stowell. “Students become comfortable, independent learners.” 

Helping students develop “whatever skills are lagging” eases the transition back to in-person learning, says Stowell. Building these skills helps students succeed academically.

“Students who struggled before and during the pandemic can now re-enter school sites without relying on accommodations to make them successful,” says Stowell.

Stowell Learning Center staff follows all safety protocols for unvaccinated students.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve been open through the pandemic, but because of the protocols in place, not one COVID-19 transmission has happened in our facility!” Stowell says.

“Fall is a great time to get started as the beginning of the school year is full of hope that things will be better,” notes Stowell. “Only by building those underlying skills will things actually improve for students and their families.”

Additionally, because of the “year of lost learning,” Stowell predicts the upcoming school year will be different for both teachers and students. 

“Students will be expected to learn more, faster, to make up for what they didn’t learn last year,” he says. “Having the skills needed for accelerated learning are now more important than ever. We’re here to make that transition easier.”