In the face of the growing coronavirus pandemic, school campuses in Sonoma County have been closed for nearly a year, and the classroom goalkeepers of a few schools opened as early as Monday.
At that time, Sonoma Charter School will open its doors to kindergarten, first grade and second grade students. On Wednesday, Liberty School in northern Petaluma plans to bring back students and staff.
This is followed by four other schools and districts, which have been approved by the Sonoma County Health Services Department to bring students, faculty and staff back to campus according to a revised timetable and completely different routines.
The Sonoma County Health Services Department has developed COVID safety plans from 24 schools and districts in Sonoma County. Plans for six schools, including Sonoma Charter and Liberty School, have been approved, clearing the way for the school to reopen for revised in-person teaching.
These schools and districts have joined 10 schools, 9 of which are private schools. As long as the state government approves its safety regulations, these schools will begin to reopen in October. As virus cases across the state began to soar, the exemption program was stopped in late November, but approved schools can continue.
In a community briefing on Wednesday, the county public health officer, Dr. Sundari Mase, described the safety plans of the six schools and districts that were approved to open as “stellar.”
She said: “Soon we will announce that more schools will reopen.”
Also on Wednesday, the Santa Rosa City School, the largest school district in Sonoma County, approved a plan to bring back approximately 5,000 elementary school students on April 1 and 2, and nearly 11,000 middle school students from April 26 and 29.
Santa Rosa’s plan is partly dependent on the county’s anticipated removal of the purple layer from the most stringent phase of the state’s color-coded coronavirus reopening plan, and then red, indicating that the virus has spread in large numbers but is not widespread spread.
Once it turns red, the rules for returning faculty, staff and students to school will be changed, and schools and districts will no longer need approval from the county health department to reopen. Changing to red will also pave the way for middle and high school students in the county to be sent back to the classroom-this is not allowed on the purple floor.
Meanwhile, Santa Rosa’s COVID safety plan is still in the county review process. On February 23, the county received the revised version. The county will respond to these changes on Thursday.
The Windsor Unified School District has submitted its plan, and the county will respond to its amendments by Thursday. The county’s response to the changes submitted by the Wilmar Union School district west of Petaluma will expire on Tuesday, and Two Rock Elementary, also west of Petaluma, also plans to receive news of the amendments by Wednesday.
If a school offers at least one full-year in-person course, even if Sonoma County falls into the purple class, the school can remain open and continue to implement its reopening strategy.
Mase said: “Once this happens, and the school is indeed open, even if we jump back to the purple class, the school will still be open.”
Like many of the proposed return-to-school programs that the county is considering, Sonoma Charter School will open on Monday and provide in-person guidance to kindergarten, first- and second-graders. Elin said that on March 29th after the spring break, the earlier grades will start with part-time distance learning, part-time in-person face-to-face.
But on Monday, the campus doors will be opened for a class of kindergarten students and first- and second-graders who have never seen the inside of the classroom. For them, campus life may be nothing more than a vague memory.
Irene said that because each of the three returned grades had only one class of students, school officials were able to divide them into two stable groups, and they would go to school four days a week all day.
“Those kids have exposed so much screening time,” Irene said. “We like to let them go back to campus because they are using a more traditional model, which is more in line with the physical model. They don’t look at the screen anymore, they are watching adults.”
You can contact staff writer Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671, or send an email to email@example.com. On Twitter @benefield.