Oceanside School District readies for reopening


Oceanside schools will look and feel much different when students return next week — from desk barriers and social distancing signage to new protocols and schedules. And it will all come at a price.

Preparing students

To help students prepare for these changes, school principals participated in recent “What to Expect” videos, under the direction of Audrey Miller, a broadcasting and video production teacher at the high school. The videos are posted on the Oceanside School District website under the “Reopening Schools” tab.

The three 10-minute videos — one for elementary schools, Oceanside Middle School and Oceanside High School — demonstrated new procedures throughout the school buildings.

“We’re so excited to welcome you back in September,” Michelle Mastrande, principal of School No. 5, said in the video, “and we wanted to make sure that you feel comfortable coming back to school.”

Principals explained that students will have designated entrances, and staircases will be marked as “up” or “down.” There is signage around the buildings reminding students to wear masks and remain six feet apart.

They also showed new visitation procedures, where parents or any other visitors must make an appointment and then fill out a health form before entering the building. Plus, custodial staff will be increasing their workload and using electrostatic sprayers to ensure cleanliness of all school buildings.

“We will deep clean, sanitize and disinfect each building at the end of every school day,” said Robert Schloth, the district’s director of facilities. “That includes treating all desks, common areas, restrooms, classrooms, office, light switches, doorknobs and other surfaces that students and staff touch frequently.”

The Buildings and Grounds Department has also cleaned all air conditioning vents and checked the functioning of all windows to ensure proper ventilation within the schools.

Dr. Harrington reminded families of an assurance form they must complete for each child before school starts, affirming that they will check their temperatures daily before sending them to school and closely monitor any Covid-related symptoms. “We need the parents to understand that they are partners with us in this,” she said.

Balancing the budget

All new safety features, many of which are state-mandated for schools to reopen this year, come at a cost, which school officials discussed at the Aug. 26 Board of Education meeting.

As of Aug. 20, the school had accrued nearly $700,000 in Covid-related expenses, according to Jerel Cokley, the district’s assistant superintendent of business. He noted that these costs were not accounted for in the 2020-21 budget; however, they have been offset by the cancelation of the summer and Pre-K programs this year.

Those costs will increase more than $1 million with the addition of several new staff members who will help the district comply with health and safety guidelines and run Oceanside’s “virtual school of excellence.” These include teachers, custodians and security monitors.

There is also some uncertainty about state funds that the district could receive. Still, officials remain optimistic. “We’ve created a fiscally sound plan to track all unbudgeted expenditures related to schools reopening,” Cokley said, “as well as a scenario of how we will plan for school revenue shortfalls.”

For the most updated information on schools reopening, visit oceansideschools.org.