By Derek Wilson
School officials around Marin County had hoped to welcome students back to campus with open arms — and no masks — but the start to the new school year seems a lot like the end of the old year.
“Marin County public schools are poised, ready and excited about the opening of the 2021-22 school year,” Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke stated. “All Marin public schools will be open for full time, in-person instruction. Working with guidance provided by Marin County Public Health, we know from experience that we can operate school safely for students and staff.”
Burke said all Marin schools opened to some degree of in-person instruction at the end of the 2020-21 school year, 90 percent full time. This year, schools will open with some of the same procedures in place, such as the wearing of masks indoors and outdoors by all students and staff while on school campuses.
Burke wrote in her statement: “The most important thing for families to know is that our schools are ready to help meet and support the social-emotional needs of our students. While we cannot wait to deliver high quality academic programs, we know that our students and families have gone through a lot during this pandemic and that building a sense of community and support in our schools will be the best possible start for the new school year.
“We also want parents to know that the safety and health of their children is our first and most important priority. We will continue to work closely with our health partners to make sure we are doing all we can to operate our schools in the safest possible way.
“Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we want parents to know how much we appreciate that they have been our essential educational partners over the past year and a half. Parents have done amazing work in keeping their students supported and connected to school. All while navigating the pandemic and staying on top of their other family and professional responsibilities.”
In accordance with state legislation, Marin County schools are offering in-home, independent study options for students. According to Burke, options include creating their own program or having an agreement with another district to provide the serves. The Novato Unified School District is offering an independent study program and is welcoming interdistrict transfers from other schools districts.
“Districts are getting a final count on numbers but we do not expect it be a large number of families seeking this option. What we are hearing across the board is how excited families are that their children will back to school for in-person learning,” Burke said.
Students in the Ross Valley area will be getting used to a new high school image this year, as Sir Francis Drake High School completes its change to Archie Williams High School. School staff and students on Monday unveiled the school’s Falcon logo and mascot and held a discussion on the impact Williams had on the community as an Olympic athlete and goodwill ambassador.
“We are excited to have our community and students learn more about our name sake, as Archie Williams set an example for all of us to emulate,” said high school principal LaSandra White.
Added Burke, “The spirit and enthusiasm among school staff is very positive and upbeat. The fact that close to 90 percent of school staff countywide is vaccinated has created an even greater sense of confidence that we can operate full time in-person instruction in a safe way. We have had teachers and staff doing some summer professional development work at our office and you can clearly the see joy and anticipation for this very special school year. One of the driving forces behind the work we did to ensure our schools could open as soon as deemed safe by Public Health, was that we knew our students were far better served by in-person instruction. We have heard this first and foremost from students themselves. Our students are excited to see their friends, their teachers and schools staff, and to resume their classes, sports, and other activities.”