Clovis · Education · Fresno · Visalia/Tulare

Fresno, Clovis and Visalia receive waiver to reopen elementary schools

Three of the largest Central Valley school districts received approval by the state health department for their waiver request to reopen elementary schools. 

Clovis Unified School District, Fresno Unified School District and Visalia Unified School District all announced Thursday that their waivers have been approved. 

Although, since Fresno County remained in the red tier in the state’s color-coded COVID-19 reopening guidance, all Clovis Unified and Fresno Unified schools – including middle and high schools – are allowed to reopen whenever the districts would like, regardless of the waivers. 

There is one scenario that the waivers could potentially come into play. If Fresno County experiences worsening coronavirus numbers and slides back into the purple tier before either district reopens their elementary schools, both districts would then have the ability to open those campuses if that time ever comes. 

Clovis Unified is currently targeting an elementary school reopening date of Nov. 3, with middle schools and high schools following in the second semester. 

“Our work since March has been a whole team effort to make the leap to online learning,” said Clovis Unified Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell. “I am extremely proud of our educational team for their constant focus on the academic, physical and emotional well-being of our students every step of the way. 

“Today’s welcome news that our waiver has been approved validates the extensive plan our team has created to wrap our students and staff in multiple health and safety measures so that we can confidently return to on-site instruction soon.” 

Fresno Unified has not announced any intention to reopen elementary schools this semester, but has started the process of bringing small cohorts of the highest-need students back to campus. 

“We’re going to take a methodical, phased in approach for returning our students to in-person instruction, with a focus on safety, stability and high-quality instruction,” said Superintendent Bob Nelson. 

While the waivers do not have any immediate effect for the Fresno County districts, Tulare County is still in the purple tier, meaning VUSD’s waiver approval will allow the district’s elementary schools to reopen. 

Visalia Unified has set Nov. 30 as the target date to return elementary students to in-person instruction. The district said it still has to collect information from parents on which students will return to campus and which will remain with distance learning.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at