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'In-person instruction is essential.' Santa Clara County issues guidance for reopening schools

County will require 'stable cohorts' for elementary schools, different approach for older students

Mountain View High School remains closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in Mountain View. On June 30, Santa Clara County released a 23-page document to guide county schools on their reopening plans. Photo by Sammy Dallal

When Santa Clara County students return to schools this fall, they will enter their campuses through designated, supervised routes. Elementary school students will stay in the same classroom with the same teacher for the entire school day. Middle and high schoolers will be required to wear face masks inside and outside of the classroom. All students and staff must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms daily. There will be no choir, band or cheerleading.

These are among the requirements the Santa Clara County Public Health Department released on Tuesday for reopening K-12 public, private and charter schools. The 23-page document, which was developed in partnership with the County Office of Education, works to balance two competing interests: the benefits of in-person instruction and the potential health risks of offering it.

"We know that distance learning is not an equal substitute for in-person education," Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said during a press conference on Tuesday. "We encourage the implementation of an education model that recognizes that in-person instruction is essential to supporting the academic and social development milestones that are crucial to academic progress."

The guidance includes both mandates and recommendations for schools and "was designed to provide clear direction while allowing schools appropriate flexibility based on their own constraints and resources," it states.

The county acknowledges that reopening campuses is dependent on local public health conditions, including the number of current COVID-19 cases and the degree to which schools are contributing to the spread of the coronavirus in the community. Schools are also being asked to prepare for the possibilities of a hybrid model that includes distance learning and either a temporary or long-term return to fully remote teaching and learning.

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But the message to local schools is to plan for in-person education "to the maximum extent practicable," Dewan said.

The county guidance notes that school closures disproportionately harm disadvantaged students who might not have access to technology or internet service at home or whose parents are essential workers.

"School closures magnify socioeconomic, racial and other inequities among students," the guidance states. "Disruption of normal childhood social interactions also have a profound adverse impact on students' social and emotional well-being."

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody said the guidelines were informed by an evolving understanding of the role children play in transmission of the coronavirus, including that children are less likely to spread the virus to each other as well as to adults. It's more likely that an adult would spread the virus to a child, Cody said during the press conference. COVID-19 disease prevalence is also lower among children than in adults.

"Young children aren't the engines of transmission as they are with flu," she said.

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Teenagers, however, are thought to transmit the coronavirus more similarly to adults, meaning the county's guidance for middle and high schools is different than for elementary schools.

The public health department will require elementary school students to stay in "stable cohorts" with the same classmates and teachers for the entire school day. The direction acknowledges that it's less feasible for young children to wear face masks and always adhere to social distancing to minimize the risk of spread, Cody said. There is also a "greater need" for in-person interaction with younger students, the guidance states.

It is recommended but not required to have stable cohorts of students at the middle and high schools, which could include rotating teachers into classrooms to teach different subjects.

Classrooms at all levels will have teachers' and staff's desks at least 6 feet away from students. Students will have assigned seating to "ensure that close contacts within classrooms are minimized and easily identifiable," the guidance states.

All adults must wear a face covering at all times, except while eating or drinking. Students of all grade levels will be required to wear masks while arriving and leaving schools, in any area outside of the classroom (except when eating, drinking, or engaging in physical activity) and while waiting for or riding on a school bus.

Elementary school students won't be required to wear masks in the classroom but middle and high schoolers will, even if they're in stable cohorts.

The county also recommends staggered use of restrooms, libraries and playgrounds. Meals should be served in classrooms or outdoor spaces, the guidance suggests but doesn't require.

PE classes should take place outdoors "whenever possible" with social distancing, though students won't have to wear masks during exercise. Guidance on school athletics is forthcoming.

The public health guidance is requiring symptom screenings — not just temperature checks — which parents can do with their children at home before going to school. Cody said a visual symptom check is "much more likely to identify a student or staff member who may be ill." Symptom screenings do not need to be performed by a nurse or other health professional.

Public health and elected officials emphasized on Tuesday that the reopening of schools is dependent on a collective commitment to reducing the spread of the coronavirus through the wearing of masks, social distancing, limiting interaction with people outside of one's household and frequent hand-washing.

"The virus has done a great job adapting to us and moving in stealth fashion though our community. It is up to us to adapt to this virus and do everything possible to suppress the levels," Cody said. "The better that we do that, the more sure we can be that schools can safely reopen for in-person learning."

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'In-person instruction is essential.' Santa Clara County issues guidance for reopening schools

County will require 'stable cohorts' for elementary schools, different approach for older students

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 6:35 pm

When Santa Clara County students return to schools this fall, they will enter their campuses through designated, supervised routes. Elementary school students will stay in the same classroom with the same teacher for the entire school day. Middle and high schoolers will be required to wear face masks inside and outside of the classroom. All students and staff must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms daily. There will be no choir, band or cheerleading.

These are among the requirements the Santa Clara County Public Health Department released on Tuesday for reopening K-12 public, private and charter schools. The 23-page document, which was developed in partnership with the County Office of Education, works to balance two competing interests: the benefits of in-person instruction and the potential health risks of offering it.

"We know that distance learning is not an equal substitute for in-person education," Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said during a press conference on Tuesday. "We encourage the implementation of an education model that recognizes that in-person instruction is essential to supporting the academic and social development milestones that are crucial to academic progress."

The guidance includes both mandates and recommendations for schools and "was designed to provide clear direction while allowing schools appropriate flexibility based on their own constraints and resources," it states.

The county acknowledges that reopening campuses is dependent on local public health conditions, including the number of current COVID-19 cases and the degree to which schools are contributing to the spread of the coronavirus in the community. Schools are also being asked to prepare for the possibilities of a hybrid model that includes distance learning and either a temporary or long-term return to fully remote teaching and learning.

But the message to local schools is to plan for in-person education "to the maximum extent practicable," Dewan said.

The county guidance notes that school closures disproportionately harm disadvantaged students who might not have access to technology or internet service at home or whose parents are essential workers.

"School closures magnify socioeconomic, racial and other inequities among students," the guidance states. "Disruption of normal childhood social interactions also have a profound adverse impact on students' social and emotional well-being."

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody said the guidelines were informed by an evolving understanding of the role children play in transmission of the coronavirus, including that children are less likely to spread the virus to each other as well as to adults. It's more likely that an adult would spread the virus to a child, Cody said during the press conference. COVID-19 disease prevalence is also lower among children than in adults.

"Young children aren't the engines of transmission as they are with flu," she said.

Teenagers, however, are thought to transmit the coronavirus more similarly to adults, meaning the county's guidance for middle and high schools is different than for elementary schools.

The public health department will require elementary school students to stay in "stable cohorts" with the same classmates and teachers for the entire school day. The direction acknowledges that it's less feasible for young children to wear face masks and always adhere to social distancing to minimize the risk of spread, Cody said. There is also a "greater need" for in-person interaction with younger students, the guidance states.

It is recommended but not required to have stable cohorts of students at the middle and high schools, which could include rotating teachers into classrooms to teach different subjects.

Classrooms at all levels will have teachers' and staff's desks at least 6 feet away from students. Students will have assigned seating to "ensure that close contacts within classrooms are minimized and easily identifiable," the guidance states.

All adults must wear a face covering at all times, except while eating or drinking. Students of all grade levels will be required to wear masks while arriving and leaving schools, in any area outside of the classroom (except when eating, drinking, or engaging in physical activity) and while waiting for or riding on a school bus.

Elementary school students won't be required to wear masks in the classroom but middle and high schoolers will, even if they're in stable cohorts.

The county also recommends staggered use of restrooms, libraries and playgrounds. Meals should be served in classrooms or outdoor spaces, the guidance suggests but doesn't require.

PE classes should take place outdoors "whenever possible" with social distancing, though students won't have to wear masks during exercise. Guidance on school athletics is forthcoming.

The public health guidance is requiring symptom screenings — not just temperature checks — which parents can do with their children at home before going to school. Cody said a visual symptom check is "much more likely to identify a student or staff member who may be ill." Symptom screenings do not need to be performed by a nurse or other health professional.

Public health and elected officials emphasized on Tuesday that the reopening of schools is dependent on a collective commitment to reducing the spread of the coronavirus through the wearing of masks, social distancing, limiting interaction with people outside of one's household and frequent hand-washing.

"The virus has done a great job adapting to us and moving in stealth fashion though our community. It is up to us to adapt to this virus and do everything possible to suppress the levels," Cody said. "The better that we do that, the more sure we can be that schools can safely reopen for in-person learning."

Comments

Don't worry
Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2020 at 10:02 pm
Don't worry, Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2020 at 10:02 pm
21 people like this

This will change 2 more times before school starts. Then someone will get sick on the third day of school and it will all go back to online.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:21 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:21 am
11 people like this

Good to have a plan for a time when the virus is not spreading. That time has not arrived. Maybe run an experiment over the summer using elementary school children. Put 30 children in a classroom - duly volunteered by parents who need a babysitter and are willing to sign waivers of liability - add cornovirus and see how long it takes for each one to test positive. Then see if family members also test positive, get sick, get very sick, suffer permanent harm and die. Report the results.


Science
Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:37 am
Science, Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:37 am
7 people like this

@Gary, there is already a plethora of science on this topic, it is unlikely that COVID-19 will be spread by students when schools reopen at the same rate that is has amoung adults. This Wired article (with primary source refrences) sumerizes the science pretty well: Web Link We know a lot more now than we did in March thanks to many hard working scientists around the world. Please educate yourself!


Lots of questions
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:44 am
Lots of questions, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:44 am
4 people like this

About to read the whole 23 page document but a few questions came immediately to mind:

Classrooms aren't designed to hold 30+ students at 6 foot distances. How are they suggesting schools accommodate all students in-person all day? Is there a minimum threshold of in-person time (2 days) or are they suggesting we need more teachers (more $$)?

There are fewer and fewer teachers being trained by teaching programs at colleges/universities (mostly due to a lack of societal respect and compensation for their job prospects). What's the suggested replacement plan for what happens when those close to retirement or those who are just fed up leave? You still will need that certificated individuals to provide instruction. Where will they come from?

With so few substitutes available in the county pre-pandemic, what are the suggestions for substitutes when teachers must quarantine due to exposure?

Also, how exactly do you have stable cohorts of students in middle/high schools who may share a level of class in one subject but not others (e.g. same English class, but some students in Geometry, some in Algebra II, some in Calculus). You can't differentiate and effectively cover standards with such a diversely skilled group. And generating student cohorts with matching skill sets to be taught by existing available teaching staff in limited space environments will be extremely difficult if not just plain impossible without bringing in more teachers to handle the extra cohorts. Success of cohort assignment seems to be left to the luck of the draw each site has with their student populations. The more educationally diverse the school site, the more cohort channels you'll likely need.

What extra services are we providing staff (classified and certificated) who have regular, close interactions with students? Suggested PD for behavior issues, health care, teaching models? PPE provisions for schools ($$)? Testing supplies? Child care for teachers/staff whose children's school is in a distance learning state while their site is not? COVID-19 patients who experienced severe symptoms are now believed to suffer from PTSD, do we have expanded services being offered by the county for mental health of staff and students? Are we preparing grief counseling for deaths of students and staff? [Portion removed]
What mitigation efforts are being suggested to alleviate or at least mitigate students' anxieties and the all too often source of stress, their parents' demands?

Maybe the answers to all these and other questions I have are in the document.

Time to get another cup of coffee and sit down for a read and a hopeful mindset.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:51 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:51 am
6 people like this

@ Make-believe "Science": i did check your link to a story in "WIRED " whiich argues that children under 10 are less likely than adults to get sick from the virus. Less likely. That has been said all along. The question is how many will get sick in the setting proposed and whether the virus, in turn, will be passed to others including family members and then even somebody pretending to be "Science." Instead of conducting an experiment on millions of school children and society starting in August, I suggest 30 students this summer. Better to use 30 guinea pigs than 3 million.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:56 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:56 am
6 people like this

And beyond how many children will "get sick," there is the matter of transmission from children who develop no symptoms at all. But the experiment I propose will take into account that aspect.


Enough
Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:11 am
Enough, Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:11 am
11 people like this

"The county guidance notes that school closures disproportionately harm disadvantaged students... School closures magnify socioeconomic, racial and other inequities among students."

Yes then by all means we should open the doors of all the schools and sacrifice the health of everyone to soothe the liberal consciences of a few. And when the teachers and doctors start dropping like flies, and the high achievers and contributors to society suffer the same fate at least we can say what? What exactly is the point? That everyone was deliberately put at a disadvantage? Pure genius. Regardless, just one student of teacher dies and the whole plan will come apart.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:57 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:57 am
4 people like this

Make sick and kill everyone equally. No thanks. I read that all school children here had gotten access to remote learning. If not, start replacing those in charge. Not all parents are out of work or cannot work from home, of course. But remote learning - sometimes in school groups - could be the new model. I noticed something odd about the county health department report linked to the article. It tells a story about the importance of in-person schooling and then cites two non-existent state statutes as mandating reopening when feasible. The report says these state laws (Education Code sections) are "in the process of being enacted." Maybe the MV Voice or sister papers will look to see where those proposed laws are in the legislative process.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 12:45 pm
5 people like this

I meant to say "small groups" in the last post - not "school groups." Here is the idea: For students that cannot be left at home to access and actually participate in remote learning, form neighborhood groups of students with a stay-at-home parent in charge. The smaller group is far less likely to spread the virus than a classroom of 30 students or a school of 500 students. Maybe even these groups will not be safe enough. This much is clear. It is time to start thinking outside the box - not toss 500 children back into a box and hope for the best.


Scott S.
Shoreline West
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Scott S., Shoreline West
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:26 pm
13 people like this

The socialization and emotional benefits of in-person learning (physically being with teachers and peers) cannot be underestimated. Distance learning has been incredibly hard for our family, and we have no problem with Internet access, bandwidth, or materials. It's mentally and emotionally draining (and in many cases devastating) for the whole family. Just about every parent talk to has similar stories.

It's easy to talk about the benefits of online learning (and there certainly are some), but unless you have kids and see the emotional trauma, you don't have the whole picture.

Here is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Web Link

(And a summary from NPR: Web Link)


Gerard Shonk
Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Gerard Shonk, Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2020 at 9:59 pm
12 people like this

@Enough - The people they’re talking about are the families who cannot afford to stay home while their kids are stuck in distance learning. You know, the parents who are the essential workers who made your life possible these last 4 months. The argument to get kids back in the classroom is based on hard data, while the arguments to keep them home is based on speculation and fear. Santa Clara County did a good job articulating this in their guidance.


BDBD
Cuesta Park
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:10 am
BDBD, Cuesta Park
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:10 am
8 people like this

It is definitely good news that people who study this stuff think that schools can open safely. The guidance points out that this virus is not like the flu, that other countries have been able to reopen schools successfully, that teacher-to-student transmission is more likely than student-to-student, and other evidence-based reasons supporting each requirement and recommendation. Those of you who are worried about catching it despite all of this can certainly keep your kids home, but there's a bit more "workable optimism" here than there used to be.


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