Santa Clara County is hammering out plans to reopen K-12 schools.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll proceed with in-person schooling by fall, but officials on Tuesday released new guidance in preparation for putting kids back in classrooms.
“When we closed schools, the working hypothesis was that this virus was a lot like flu, and we know that when kids get the flu in schools it spreads and others in the community get it as well,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. “What we’re learning with COVID is that young children aren’t sort of the engine of transmission like with flu. In fact, it’s probably more likely that an adult would spread to a child than that a child would spread to an adult, or that a child would spread to a child.”
As a worldwide pandemic rages on, county legislators and educators are pushing for in-person learning by the fall, but they’ve put the onus on residents to make it happen. In the guidelines issued this week, officials stressed the importance of physical distancing, masks and personal sanitization is the only way to proceed with those plans.
“We need everyone in the community to strictly follow social distancing now so that children and teachers can safely return to school in the fall,” Cody stressed. “Schools and other institutions in our community can operate safely if they carefully follow all recommended public health practices, and they must move forward with their preparations now to ensure they have all the measures in place.”
If schools wish to implement temperature screening at the door, they can. However, Cody added, “what’s most important is that students are screened for symptoms. That’s much more likely to identify a student or staff member who may be ill.”
As of today, the county had counted 4,572 COVID cases (210 in just the past 24 hours), along with 80 hospitalization and 158 deaths (two since yesterday).
Assuming numbers stay low in the county, officials are all but guaranteeing in-person learning for the fall, with plenty of restrictions and new-normals for students. Some of those constraints may include physical barriers if a six-foot distance isn’t feasible, and, if necessary, online learning for some students.
There will be additional distancing as children and young people enter schools, Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan said.
Schools will also have “the maximum extent practical” or as small as possible in-person classes, she added. But her office has advised that some classrooms should remove furniture. Further, children won’t face each other and will sit in rows facing the front. Masks will be required of students and teachers, and some sports and activities could be shut down to reduce COVID-19 transmission risks.
This will probably mean no choir, band or cheer unless “virtually or individually,” Dewan said. And, according to the official guidelines, schools will consider outdoor space, gyms or cafeterias for greater distance. Staff break rooms may also be closed and teachers may have to eat outdoors or “in large, well ventilated spaces.”
Physical education classes will likely be outdoors whenever possible to maintain space and hallway congregation will be limited and bus rides will have to be six-feet apart with required face coverings and increased disinfecting. The new guidelines also point to hand sanitizer in each classroom, at building entrances and exits and eating areas.
“School athletics will be addressed in detail in forthcoming guidance,” per the guidelines.
County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who recently advanced a $7 million internet access initiative through the Board of Supervisors to “bridge the digital divide” for thousands of local kids, said in a statement Tuesday that about 15,000 students were left out of distance learning during shelter-in-place because they lacked service or technology.
Meanwhile, board President Cindy Chavez is urging residents to get tested for COVID and continue distancing and sanitizing as much as possible to keep numbers low so kids can safely go back to school.
“I know people are tired and they miss their families and I know parents want their children to be back at school—we’re trying to create as many safe options as we can,” Chavez said. “But ... the control of what happens to our fate can’t be up to the virus. It has to be up to us and our individual behavior, our businesses behavior and how we really emerge in a world that is going to be with COVID-19 for some time to come.”
The County of Santa Clara announces new guidelines for schools K - 12.We apologize for the technical difficulties, the rest of the stream can be watched here: https://www.facebook.com/sccpublichealth/videos/1181988912141785/School guidance: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/school-guidance.aspx
Posted by County of Santa Clara Public Health Department on Tuesday, June 30, 2020