Amid the worst surge of coronavirus cases in the Bay Area since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education has unanimously voted to cancel its plans to return to in-person instruction in January.
After originally planning to return to a hybrid in-person learning model on Jan. 5, the board voted to continue with full-time remote learning during its regular meeting on Tuesday, taking advice from Superintendent John Malloy and staff to do so.
"I know as I share this that this is not what some of our families wish to hear, but I do believe that it is important for me to communicate it to you clearly for your deliberations and decision," Mallory said during Tuesday's meeting.
Recent Coronavirus related data released by Contra Costa Health Services has shown a significant spike in cases throughout the region, with the county's weekly average of newly reported cases reaching 35.6 a day per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday -- on Nov. 3 the average number of cases reported every day was 9.7.
SRVUSD residents have responded to the surge by electing to have their students opt for remote learning over in-person. Prior to the board's decision to cancel plans to return to in-person instruction, 65.01% of elementary and 75.84% of secondary students already elected to remain with remote learning over in-person, according to district officials.
Teachers have also expressed concerns over returning to in-person instruction according to Malloy, who said, "Our staff has been speaking to us, and though this may not be everyone's experience, especially as we have moved into the purple tier, many of our staff have communicated directly with me and have shared that they don't feel safe right now."
The board voted to remain with remote learning until Contra Costa County is removed from the state's most-restrictive purple tier -- according to California's four tier ranking of coronavirus infection rates -- and into the less restrictive red tier.
When classes do return from winter break on Jan. 5, students will begin remote learning with their new class assignments, ensuring that as soon as it is safe to return to in-person learning the process will be as seamless as possible.
"Opening schools is a community effort. We have to do it together. The district can't do it by itself, teachers can't do it by themselves, students and parents can't do it by themselves. It has to be everyone including the community," Board President Susanna Ordway said during Tuesday's discussion.
"The human factor is the variable in this. I think that (there is) a lot of fear and a lot of concern around everything, even with the hard science of being safe, because we can only control what we can control ourselves," she added. "As long as (the divisiveness around this issue) continues, it makes it hard to come together and open schools safely."
District officials added that additional information and details on how residents can provide feedback to the board will be sent to district families before the end of the day on Wednesday.
Residents are also invited to view a town hall featuring Superintendent Malloy on the district's YouTube channel at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.