La Reina plans to allow students back on campus on August 11.

, Ventura County StarPublished 12:48 p.m. PT May 21, 2020
 

La Reina High administrators said they weighed their options, assessed their capabilities, examined the possibilities.

Then they opted to be first.

The Thousand Oaks all-girls Catholic school announced this week that it will reopen its doors on Aug. 11 for the 2020-2021 educational year, becoming the first Ventura County high school to allow students back to campus since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a county and statewide shutdown in March.

"It's a decision we reached only with a lot of thought and consideration," said La Reina middle and high school president Tony Guevara. "We realize we're in a unique situation because of our spacious campus and the opportunity to keep our students safe and their distancing spaced out according to all guidelines recommended by Ventura County public health officials. We're confident we can maintain the health of our students in the best educational format we can present."

La Reina High, like schools throughout the county, has been streaming classes for the remainder of the spring semester. Online classes will likely remain an option for students and parents hesitant to return to campus, said Principal Maggie Marschner.

But she said school officials steadfastly believe that in-person classes offer the best learning environment.

"It's so important that we offer in-person classes because there are so many advantages to our students," she said. "Just the opportunity to build relationships with the teacher and to have them ask 'How are you doing?' is such a big deal.

"Our urgency is that we offer our students the best possible experience."

Restarting on-campus classes would mark the opening phase of La Reina's return to normalcy, said Guevara.

Sports and extracurricular activities would wait until other county schools, particularly La Reina's fellow members of the Tri-County Athletic Association, can reopen and restart their sports programs.

The decision to launch in-person classes beginning in August was reached by school administrators. La Reina, sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame, is an independent school that does not require approval of any Catholic archdiocese.

La Reina does have a Board of Trustees, which relied on the judgment of school administrators in the decision to reopen. "No vote was required," said Guevara.

What will reopening look like?

Temperature checks, masks and social distancing likely will form the basis of a new-look campus life. School officials are currently working on guidelines that will be released to parents and students,

"We're looking at a number of options, including many that are most likely," said Guevara.

La Reina's student enrollment for 2019-2020 was 276, a number that officials say will allow for safe distancing. The school campus covers roughly 11 acres.

Classes will have no more than 15 students, and administrators are considering moving some classrooms outdoors.

Guevara said reaction by parents and students in the wake of La Reina's decision has been gratifying.

"It's been fantastic," he said. "Lots of enthusiasm. Parents are telling us that they're confident that we will make all the right decisions. Our whole goal is to assure everyone that we will continue to offer an excellent education."

* Note:  The decision to open La Reina's campus was unanimously endorsed by La Reina's Board of Trustees.