In a key signal for Bay Area school districts, Santa Clara County officials said Tuesday that schools must follow strict social distances and mask requirements if they reopen for in-person learning in the fall – but if school officials and health professionals follow this path in cases of increasing coronavirus cases remains to be seen.
While the most populous county in the Bay Area wants “all students and teachers to return to school as soon as possible”, officials have yet to decide how much – if not completely – the physical classroom involves, health officer Dr. Sara. Cody said at a Tuesday press conference.
“The possibility of reopening schools for education in person depends on the containment of COVID-1
School closings first crossed the Bay Area en masse when the pandemic hit in mid-March. Just a few weeks later, the six counties said they followed the state’s recommendation to stay closed for the rest of the year, leaving teachers, students and parents climbing to adapt to online learning.
Now, however, counties across California are taking a more piecemeal approach to reopening. The state orientation published earlier this month provides that schools offer in-person learning to the extent that they are able to depend on local health orders, leaving specifications to local officials, in some cases individual districts and schools.
For its part, Santa Clara County invited its districts to consider various scenarios for the year, including in-person education, distance learning or a hybrid model. But with only a month before August, officials did not respond directly when districts or parents should expect more information about a potential first day of school: such plans “are not a guarantee that conditions will allow us to reopen in person”, said Mary Ann Dewan, county superintendent.
“We still don’t know how changing conditions will affect education offerings in the fall,” said Dewan, adding, “The health and safety of students, staff and the community remains the center of attention. Schools will need to adhere to the requirements and study the guidelines provided by the Department of Public Health and apply them. “
If brick and mortar schools welcome students in the fall, the county expects different age groups to follow different rules, according to a new guide.
For example, elementary school students would be educated in smaller, more stable groups, while high school students would always be required to wear facades and follow stricter social distance guidelines. Signs and signs on the ground should be used to enforce the six-foot rule in school offices, bus stops and corridors. However, daily temperature checks would not be necessary.
Chris Funk, district superintendent of the East School Union East Side of San Jose, said the guidelines reflect what he and other district officials have been discussing for months. The East Side schools plan to host some in-person learning for vulnerable students – such as homeless or disabled children – but overall they rely heavily on distance learning.
While districts were busy adopting similar approaches previously in the pandemic, reopening requires a more school-by-school approach, particularly due to different age groups and demographics, he added.
“I will no longer be dismissive of this decision, and my first priority is to deal first with the safety of staff and students and provide the best possible second education,” said Funk.
Similar protocols have been developed in San Mateo County, where school and health officials plan to stagger students, enforce facial coverage and limit the number of students in the classroom. In Contra Costa Diablo Unified District County Mountain, students will be educated in groups no larger than 15, the district said, and are expected to sanitize their hands on arrival and wear masks. Parents and visitors will likely have limited access to campus.
In Oakland, meanwhile, parents, staff and community members of the Oakland Unified School District, for example, are making proposals to consider both completely remote and hybrid models, with a decision scheduled for July 10.
Decisions related to high school sports in Santa Clara County are also expected by late summer, officials said.