In a "unified approach" to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as much as possible, the Contra Costa County Office of Education and six other Bay Area jurisdictions announced on Wednesday that local school closures and student dismissals will be extended through May 1.
The decision builds on the order earlier this month from regional health officers requiring residents in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo to shelter in place through early April.
On March 13, Tri-Valley school districts in San Ramon Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore Valley all held emergency meetings to approve the dismissal of in-person classes until mid-April and begin remote instruction.
“As our schools continue to move through these extraordinary circumstances, regional educational leaders prioritized a unified approach for the appropriate extension of school closures,” Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. Karen Monroe said in a statement. “Being able to come to this collective decision as a region, with the involvement of our health officers, is an important step for our districts and our families in terms of safety, as well as planning and expectations.”
School facilities may stay open for staff performing tasks considered essential by the school district and county offices of education. In the meantime, classroom instruction may continue via remote learning and students on food assistance may still pick up meals for breakfast and lunch at designated school sites. Childcare may also still be arranged.
“Schools play a vital role in our communities and balancing that role with the need for additional planning for social distancing at school sites is essential at a time when community transmission is widespread in Alameda County,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County interim public health officer.
In a letter to the Pleasanton Unified School District community, Superintendent David Haglund said the extension means "consequently, we will be adjusting our planning for a longer period of school dismissals."
"I appreciate how difficult this is for all of us. Pleasanton is an active and engaged community and thrives on interactions with others," Haglund said. "It has been heartwarming to watch families connecting with friends via FaceTime, various social media platforms, and video conferencing tools. Some of you are quite humorous in your approach, and I for one appreciate the stress relief this humor brings to me."
"We never thought we would find ourselves in this situation" six months ago, said Dublin Unified School District Superintendent Dave Marken, but "our school community, including our staff, have amazed us with their versatility, and ability to adapt to these changing times."
Right now DUSD is finalizing long-term plans to "create flexible independent learning options that deliver the best possible experiences for all of our students in a way that is sustainable for the duration of this crisis."
DUSD will also work to provide "hard-earned memories" for students like graduations and senior balls, though "current circumstances make it difficult to say when, how, or if this will happen."
"At this moment, we are waiting for more direction from state and federal agencies about current shelter in place orders to determine what will happen with regards to these year-ending events," Marken added. "Absent of state assistance, we are working with our neighboring districts to develop a common plan for end of the year decisions."
San Ramon Valley Unified School District said they still plan to observe spring break as scheduled from April 6-10, during which time no remote learning will take place.
"We want you to know that we have been preparing for this eventuality," SRVSD said on their website. "Beginning the week of April 13th, we will be changing the focus of our Remote Learning Plan from review to the teaching of new material while progressing on standards not previously covered. Throughout our closure, we will continue to provide meals for any student in need."
Families will be notified if further extensions are needed; local county offices of education will also continue to work closely with health officials and local school districts to support their communities.
“While we would like to get our students and staff back into classrooms as soon as possible, we understand where we are at this moment,” Monroe said. “We continue to support our districts and the students and families they serve in every way possible to ensure they have critical learning opportunities and are equipped with the resources they need.”