Several Bay Area school districts announced Tuesday that all of their campuses will remain closed though the end of the school year as a result of the region’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to stem the spread of the virus, six Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley issued shelter-in-place orders on March 17. As a result, school districts in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties temporarily closed their campuses. Initially, those closures were scheduled to last two weeks but as the crisis wore on, the closures were eventually extended to May 1.
Now education officials in those counties say the campuses will remain closed through at least the end of the school year. “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,” explained San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow. “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,” Morrow said.
While the campuses remain closed, the school year hasn’t been cancelled and students are expected to continue their studies remotely, using digital communication, video conferencing and other strategies in an effort to complete as much coursework as possible. “It is important to remember that our students’ learning and our teachers’ instruction is ongoing,” said Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke.
Alameda County and several individual school districts had already announced up to a week ago that their campuses would remain closed to in-person instruction for the remainder of the year.
The county’s top education official acknowledged the burden this puts on families and said that the state would eventually provide guidance on grading and graduation requirements. “Asking parents and caregivers to take on the daunting task of supporting learning experiences that our incredible, professional teachers normally provide — on top of their needs that many of our families have to continue their own work responsibilities or to ensure their bills can be paid — adds even more stress to everyday home life,” said Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. Karen Monroe.
Many districts have been working hard to implement distance learning plans since the first shelter-in-place order was given, but there has been widespread confusion while teachers, parents and administrators struggle to adjust to the new reality.