by Lorraine Gabbert
November 2, 2020
With the spread of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County and schools no longer responsible for testing, San Jose Unified School District officials will allow students to return to class on Jan. 5 for common rooms and development of training courses personal learning. In September, the school district decided to offer distance learning only until the end of the first semester (December 18) due to a high number of COVID-19 cases across the country. The East Side Union High School District began a limited return to personal learning last month. In a letter to the San Jose Unified Community, Albarrán said the school district was working closely with the Santa Clara County Health Department, task force leaders, county education department, state agencies and superintendents across the state in planning the next phase, Albarrán said , A key factor for personal learning is the availability of COVID-19 tests offered by healthcare providers. “The health department has ordered local health care providers to run COVID-19 tests on key workers, which includes school workers,” Albarrán said. “In addition, the Santa Clara County Education Department is working with several counties in the county to provide additional testing and more convenient access for school staff.”
However, parent Holly Case is concerned that district employees will not need regular testing.
“This makes me nervous because they admitted that some people had COVID-19 on campus even though they were isolated,” Case said. “If you throw in more people and someone test positive, they’ll come into contact with a lot more people. Your plan worked, but partly because there weren’t many people.”
SJUSD spokeswoman Jennifer Maddox said teachers need to be tested but students don’t unless they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. The school is responsible for contact identification and communicating to the district and Santa Clara Public Health which students and staff have had COVID-19 at the school. Those who are exposed to that person will receive notifications.
Maddox said the district is limiting classroom capacity based on a distance of 6 feet and planning for 50% capacity in each classroom. During the week of November 16, families will have to decide whether to continue distance learning or return to school.
“By and large, we have parents who are fully committed to distance learning, some until there is a vaccine,” said Maddox, “but others are willing to have their students return to school.”
The case fears that students’ choice cannot be changed for the entire semester when they return to campus or continue distance learning.
“We have to make a decision that will take six months,” she said. “They said we had to agree to the whole semester, which I don’t think is fair.”
The district said it balances student and staff safety with the benefits of face-to-face learning. Students will return provided Santa Clara County stays in the orange or yellow class. If Santa Clara County is in the red or purple category on December 30th, the district plans to postpone in-person classes. The district has updated its COVID-19 safety log to ensure that “strict security measures are being used to minimize the risk as much as possible,” said Katie Rodriguez, RN, manager of the district’s health and family support programs. The district requires face masks and 6 feet of social distance on campus, both inside and outside the classrooms. Supervisors often disinfect touch-sensitive surfaces and common areas, and all employees have been provided with disinfectant cleaners. Air circulation and filtration has improved as HVAC systems have been set up to maximize the amount of outside air brought into the classrooms and new air filters are installed. Staff and students are required to conduct a daily symptom screening before arriving on campus. Each school location has a COVID-19 contact point that is responsible for coordinating with the district that is in contact with public health. Acrylic barriers are provided for staff use in accordance with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 security teams made up of administrators, teachers, and classified personnel will work with the district to ensure that each school site is supported in complying with security protocols as per the district. The district has held webinars with parents about its plans to gauge parenting interest in students returning to school. Jodi Lax, the district’s assistant superintendent, said that although the district wants students to return to class as “in person,” learning is the ideal experience for students and teachers. “Not all families feel comfortable sending back students. Distance learning will continue to be an option for these students. Families will be given an online selection form for the spring semester next week their current teachers, it offers the option to teach with a different teacher or location, or to stay with the same teacher remotely.
“This is not an easy decision or an easy process,” Maddox said. “But we want to be sure that we are ready to welcome students again.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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