Public schools in six Bay Area counties, including in San Mateo, will remain closed through the end of the school year, county health officers and superintendents of schools have decided.
The decision, which affects schools in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Alameda counties, along with the San Francisco Unified School District, follows a letter last week from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to county superintendents across California signaling that public school students won't return to their campuses this school year.
“We find ourselves in an urgent public health crisis,” said San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee in a prepared statement. “Schools must be responsive to the needs of the greater community. By continuing to provide instruction to students at home, we can both support learning and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. The questions about when to close schools – and when to reopen them – are, in large part, public health decisions. We highly value our collaboration with our public health partners and will continue to respect their authority in this matter.”
Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, noted that while campuses cannot reopen this academic year, "the 2019-20 school year has not ended."
"The remainder of the school year will be focused on continuing education support for students through distance learning options as described by The California Department of Education (CDE)," she said in a prepared statement. "By doing so, we can do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community as the health and well-being of our students, families, and staff remain our top priority."
School closures have continued to be extended. Two weeks ago, Bay Area counties announced that schools would remain closed for in-person learning until May 1. All San Mateo County schools have been closed since mid-March.
Some county schools had already planned to remain closed for the rest of the school year. The Sequoia Union High and Menlo Park City districts each announced last week that they would continue with distance learning for the rest of their school years.
“The decision to further extend closures is critical for maintaining social distancing and protecting the health and safety of all San Mateo County and Bay Area residents,” said San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work closely with school leaders and adjust our orders and guidance once the data reflects that we’ve significantly stemmed the spread of COVID-19.”
During an April 7 virtual town hall, Thurmond put out a call to anyone willing to provide tech devices to schools – so all students have access to digital distance learning materials – to email [email protected] He noted that there are places in the state where students do not have access to the internet or tech devices.
"We have to keep working to close these digital divides that have existed, sometimes for decades," he said, noting that he finds the digital divide between low-income students and other students, which occur on both the statewide and national levels, to be an embarrassment.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.