#schoolsafety | Marin schools inch toward potential classroom learning

With 11 weeks left in the fall semester, more than 50 Marin schools have approved coronavirus safety plans that could clear the way for in-person instruction when public health restrictions allow.

The plans, which include each school’s compliance with the county’s 30-point checklist on virus protections, are posted at the Marin County Office of Education website at marinschools.org.

Each school must have a site-specific plan that has been reviewed by Marin public health staffers. The plan also includes the name of at least one staff member to serve as liaison with public health officials. The liaison is required to keep a log of daily school attendance — information that would be critical for contact tracing in the event of a coronavirus infection.

“The reality is, at the end of the day, it’s a shared relationship between public health and the schools,” said Dr. Matthew Willis, the county’s public health officer. “It’s a partnership.”

Two training sessions have already been held for staff members identified as liaisons at Marin schools.

Marin’s cautious approach to reopening schools comes as at least two other major Bay Area school districts have given up on the idea. The Santa Rosa and San Jose districts both announced recently that they would not be reopening for in-person instruction until 2021.

Marin is more likely than some other counties to have at least some in-person instruction this year because of intense preparations and the county’s more favorable virus numbers, officials said. The county already has more than 30 public and private elementary schools, special education programs and alternative programs with approved waivers to open for in-person instruction.

“I give credit to our districts,” Mary Jane Burke, Marin superintendent of schools, said Friday. “They have been working hard for many months to make sure we are ready when the time is right.”

Burke added that while most schools still remain in distance learning mode, at least 30 learning hubs have now opened in the Canal area of San Rafael and other neighborhoods throughout Marin. The hubs allow students who don’t have enough support at home with distance learning — or whose families can’t afford private tutors — to get free help with technology or with the remote instruction curricula.

“We’re using the $200,000 that Bank of Marin donated to help set those up,” Burke said. “We’re working with the YMCA and other agencies such as Canal Alliance.”

Burke said some Marin County Office of Education staffers have also been reassigned to help at the learning hubs.

The county recently moved from tier 1 to tier 2 — a less restrictive status — under the state’s four-level virus monitoring system. If Marin stays for two weeks at tier 2, the state could allow county schools to reopen by Sept. 29, Willis said.

However, even with the state permission, and even with all the individual school plans approved, every school district will need to decide for itself what will work best, Willis said.

At San Rafael City Schools, for example, the district will delay earlier plans to reopen by Oct. 5 to sometime later than that, communications director Christina Perrino said Friday.

“We want to have the younger students come back first,” she said. “We believe they are the ones most in need of in-person teaching.”

After that, the district will look at how to reopen the middle and high schools for in-person instruction.

“We want to make sure all the safety protections are in place before we bring back more students,” Perrino said. The district will be sending a letter to families with more details about its reopening plans early this week, she added.

Mill Valley School District officials are aiming for a potential Oct. 12 start for some in-person instruction, according to district spokesperson Amanda Finlaw.

“We have addressed the needs of our sites in preparation for reopening next month,” Finlaw said Friday. “All students will enter safe spaces on Oct. 12. Being that we are in the middle of September, we are well ahead of ensuring a safe re-entry.”

At Miller Creek School District, “schools will begin to slowly reopen to in person instruction starting Monday, Oct. 5,” interim superintendent Becky Rosales said in a community letter Friday. “The first wave of reopenings will include three classrooms at each of the elementary schools and identified students at the middle school.”

Rosales said the district “will continue this slow, measured reopening in 14-day intervals, and will introduce at least three additional K-5 hybrid classrooms.”

At Novato Unified School District,  the district has not yet settled on an agreement with teachers on the details of an in-classroom instruction model. Kris Cosca, district superintendent, said Sunday he was “optimistic” they would reach agreement soon.

Cosca, in a letter to families sent over the weekend, said students would not be returning to campus before Oct. 4 at the earliest.

“Our leadership team will be spending (this) week assessing our readiness to return students to campus,” he said in the letter. He said the team will be doing walk-throughs of school buildings to see where the district stands in relation to Marin public health guidelines and the 30-point checklist in the school-site-specific protection plans.

“Based on what we see, we will work with the NUSD board of trustees to determine our best path forward,” he said in the letter. Cosca said he will continue to update families as soon as new information is available.

Mariah Fisher, president of the Novato Federation of Teachers, said the union and the district were still in almost daily negotiations over the details of a potential hybrid model and what a return to the classroom would look like.

“We met Monday 3-9 p.m., Wednesday 3-9 p.m. and tonight from 3-9 p.m.,” she said in an email on Friday. The teachers did sign an agreement with the district at the beginning of the term, but it only covered the distance learning portion of the semester.

Willis said the liaison system worked perfectly over the summer, when there was one person who tested positive for the virus at a county-operated “pop-up” child care center.

A county public health nurse contacted the child care center’s liaison, who offered the attendance logs and contact information. The result was a 14-day quarantine for one cohort of 14 children and two staff members.

“After the 14 days, they were all tested, and all returned to the school,” Willis said. “This is why it’s so important to have definitive and discrete cohorts. We have to know who’s in each group.”

The semester ends Dec. 21 for holiday break. Most schools will also have a recess during Thanksgiving week from Nov. 24 to 27.

Source by [author_name]

.  .  .  .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .   .    .    .   .   .   .   .   .  .   .   .   .  .  .   .  .