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Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage will be the first school in the Coachella Valley to reopen to students and faculty for in-person learning at its “lower school” when the doors open Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.

Palm Valley School approved for in-person instruction
Palm Valley School gains approval for in-person instruction.

Kindergarten through sixth grade at Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage has been approved by Riverside County’s Department of Public Health to reopen in-person instruction. After submitting a waiver to reopen, Palm Valley received approval on Thursday, making it the first local school to get the green light.

Palm Valley School began it’s 2020-2021 school year virtually on Wednesday.

Riverside County approved Palm Valley School’s waiver unanimously, and in-person elementary level classes begin Sept. 8th.

Many parents say they’re excited to see kids back in the classroom.

“It’s going to be great for the school and I look forward to when all kids can get back to school. I know it’s been difficult for all of us parents and really, really, difficult for the kids,” said Cherise Sonderman, a Palm Valley parent.

For those who aren’t ready to return, students can still continue with their online program.

“We have designed options to meet the needs of all of our families,” said Dr. Sherman, the head of Palm Valley School. “So we do, of course, have the screening guidelines and are keeping cohorts small and stable. But also we have a hyflex online option where students can stay at home and synchronously be in the classroom.”

All approved schools are required to follow strict state health guidelines.

“We are going to be six feet apart, we are going to be taking a break to wash our hands and we are going to be wearing our masks at all times,” said Kaiser.

But staff members say they’re excited to be the first Coachella Valley School to return to class.

“We were pleased to get the waiver. The vulnerability, the eyes on us, we expect that. We welcome the scrutiny,” said Dr. Sherman.

In the county’s acceptance letter, they stated, “You are not required to cease in-person instruction should the county case rate exceed 200 per 100,000 residents.

Likewise, if the county exits the statewide monitoring list for at least 14 continuous days, then all schools may reopen per state order, and this waiver will no longer be required.”

King’s School and Desert Chapel Christian School also applied for the waiver, but their status is currently pending. 

Here is the letter making the announcement from Dr. Steven Sherman, The Head of the Palm Valley School

Dear Palm Valley Community,

Good afternoon. We are just completing our second day of school and I have personally witnessed our Firebird spirit in many tangible ways. From excited preschoolers to high school students eager to get back to learning…. even virtually…..it has been a historic start to the school year. A year that promises to test our resilience and grit!

I am writing to provide you with an update on our K – 6th grade waiver application. This morning we received approval from Riverside County and the California Department of Public Health to re-open our lower school for in-person instruction beginning on Tuesday, September 8th. The re-opening of our lower school requires strict adherence to our re-opening plan by all members of our school community.

On the 8th, our Kindergarteners will be transitioning to their traditional building in the lower school, while we look forward to welcoming back our 1st – 5th graders for in-person instruction. Our 6th grade students will remain on our Distance Learning platform as staffing conflicts prohibit us from re-opening our middle school to only 6th graders.

Therefore, 6th – 12th grades will remain on our Distance Learning platform and schedule. 

We still plan on offering our “afternoon athletics” program from 3 – 5 pm starting on September 8th for our middle and high school students. This program will be offering supervised, outside, physically-distanced activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Next week, look for an email containing the necessary paperwork to read and sign before returning to school physically on September 8th, enroll in our “afternoon athletics”, or for lower school students to enroll in the Hyflex Learning Option. 

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