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There will be new meaning for “home for holidays” for students in Novato and San Marin high school students. They will remain at home through the holidays according to a plan approved by the Novato Unified School District Board of Trustees.
The board on Oct. 6 approved a timeline for schools to reopen for in-person learning, beginning with kindergarten classes on Oct. 26. First and second grade students may report to campus on Monday, Nov. 9 and students in third through sixth grades may be back in their classrooms on Nov. 30. The plan calls for students in seventh through 10th grades to be able to return to campus beginning Jan. 4, 2021. High school juniors and seniors will have to wait until January 11.
According to a report from NUSD Superintendent Kris Cosca: “Returning students to campus is a complex task with significant ramifications for our students, staff and community.
Returning students to campus must be done safely. This is a heavy burden we all carry. We must also balance this with our acknowledgement that, while distance learning is working well for many, it is not working well for many others. There are students and families for whom distance learning is failing or at least coming up short, and there is now clear public health guidance regarding this return.”
NUSD schools began distance learning on March 13. At the same time, school officials arranged for students to have access to computers and the internet, and provided for school lunches.
According to Cosca: “While we are proud of the work we have done during distance learning and the growth we have seen in our teaching staff, distance learning makes it difficult to meet the unique learning needs of our students. This is more profound for our students in special education, English learners, students living in poverty, our youngest students … and students with countless other needs. NUSD continues to refine and improve our ability to provide high-quality instruction in distance learning even as we work tirelessly to return our students to on-campus learning.”
Some smaller schools in Marin were granted waivers to reopen for on-campus learning Sept. 8 after Marin County moved to Tier 2 status on the state’s guidelines for Covid-19 restrictions.
The county has now been at Tier 2 for four weeks and schools do not need a waiver to reopen for on-campus learning, but they do need to have an approved safety plan in place to limit Covid-19 exposure. At various schools, this includes keeping desks six feet apart, installing more hand sanitizing/washing stations, keeping students in small cohorts, increased air filter capacity, installing plexiglass barriers in high-traffic areas, etc. At NUSD, the district added three custodial positions.
Mill Valley families hoped students might be able to return to campus last Monday, but Mill Valley School District officials opted to delay reopening until after Thanksgiving break.
Officials stated the two primary drivers behind the delay are: the large number of students enrolled in extended distance learning, and the lack of qualified substitute teachers.
“We could push forward with our October 12th date, but based on the factors above and the current high quality of distance learning, we have determined that returning to school sites will create too great of a disruption to our students and staff at this time,” according to a statement to parents.
The San Rafael City Schools District officials had hoped to have students back on campus by now, but “based on public health guidance,” the grand reopening will be delayed. The new target date is the beginning of November for elementary and middle schools to reopen, possibly wit ha hybrid schedule. San Rafael and Terra Linda high schools likely will not reopen until January.
According to a statement on the SRCS website, “we are partnering with Marin Health and Human Services to immediately develop and implement a robust testing plan that is specific to our SRCS community. We will be partnering with healthcare providers, testing companies and community organizations over the next several weeks to assure widespread testing for SRCS students and adults. This will offer us a better understanding of our local data to guide our decisions regarding timing.”
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