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On Thursday morning, months of finely-curated planning will be turned into action at five Orange County school districts serving about 76,000 students as schoolyard gates open for in-person classes for the first time in six months, marking a widely watched return to school amid California’s coronavirus crisis.

The Tustin, Irvine and Los Alamitos unified districts and Fountain Valley and Cypress Schools are among the first cluster of school systems in the 29-district county to begin opening this week — with hybrid schedules that allow a portion of students back at one time while others learn online to keep classes small to maintain social distancing.

Next week, five more will open: Capistrano, Saddleback, Orange and Newport Mesa unified and Ocean View schools. These first days bring both celebrations and deep concerns among teachers and parents about safety as their reopening experiences will stand as harbingers of what may lie ahead throughout the state.

The openings come after Orange County — known for its anti-mask rebellion and defiance of state orders — was given state and county public health department clearance to reopen campuses because of the county’s lower coronavirust test positivity rate. Out of 29 school districts in the county, 10 have announced plans to open for in-person instruction by the end of the month.

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