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9/21/21 Update: The Next Steps in Our Reentry Efforts
Posted 9/21/20

Dear San Rafael City Schools Community,        
As we shared before the start of the school year, we worked with our SRCS community over the summer to develop reentry recommendations, which the Board of Education approved, to bring students back to campus under a phased-in approach. Today, I want to update you on our efforts to move forward to the next phase - transitioning from full remote learning to hybrid learning with some in-person instruction. 

While we have agreed on what the hybrid learning plans will look like, we are now working to determine when to implement. It is important to emphasize that we remain in constant communication with Marin Health and Human Services (MHHS) and our labor partners every step of the way, and that the safety of our students and staff are the top priority. District and school leaders are working closely with our labor partners to make sure we proceed cautiously and carefully so that we have addressed all issues regarding safety, including ventilation, testing, transportation, cleaning and more. 

Marin County recently moved from Tier 1, or “widespread” COVID-19 community risk status, to the Red Tier 2 “substantial” risk category. Per state regulations, Tier 2 counties that maintain Tier 2 data for at least two consecutive weeks may reopen schools to classroom-based learning, with modification. While that means that while classes could start as early as Sept. 29 for Marin, it is up to individual school districts to determine the exact timing after we get the official go-ahead from the state. 

We have previously shared the earliest we would bring our SRCS students back is Oct. 5, but it won’t be that soon. We want to bring our younger students back first as they are most in need of in-person teaching, and this will allow us to make sure all of our safety precautions and procedures are working effectively before we bring all other TK-5 students back to school. We’re optimistic that we may bring back early elementary students in small groups around the end of October and then implement the “AM / PM” hybrid schedule soon after, potentially in the beginning of November. 

In general, we don’t anticipate moving to the next phase of hybrid in-person learning for all middle and high school students until after we bring back elementary. However, we are working hard to bring back targeted groups of middle and high school students for some small, in-person learning as soon as possible. We are also sending surveys this week to determine your readiness level in returning to school as well as to better understand how remote learning is going.

I recognize that there is still much uncertainty and ambiguity with this update. My goal is to write again the week of Sept. 28 with a more solid outlook as to what the next few months will look like. In the meantime, here are some important updates about the work we're doing to move us closer to making decisions and welcoming students to campus.

Learning Hubs: We are excited to have approximately 235 SRCS elementary school students participating in Learning Hubs, which began last week at schools across our District. Learning Hubs provide a space for a small group of students to conduct their learning with adults supervising and providing assistance as needed. Our SRCS Learning Hubs are the result of collaboration with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) and many community partners, who are staffing the programs. Students who receive free and reduced lunch, are English learners and who could use additional academic support were prioritized for participation. 

School Site-Specific Protection Plans (SSSPP): Our District and schools have School Site-Specific Protection Plans (SSSPP) that outline procedures and processes for the return of students and staff to our campuses; they indicate how we are meeting the guidelines in MCOE and MHHS’ 30-point plan. Each school's plan is a result of collaboration with a number of partners, including public health officials, principals and a school site Safety Task Force. Furthermore, they align with the recommendations established by the District Reentry Safety Task Force, which were approved by the Board of Education. All SSSPPs were reviewed and vetted by our safety coordinator, reviewed by MCOE and received final approval from MHHS. 

Transportation: MHHS has clarified guidelines around student safety while on school busses, including designations for the number of students (27) who can ride the bus safely with four foot separation. SRCS is currently working with our District and school leaders to ensure that elementary am/pm students will be able to ride the bus to school safely under these guidelines for those students who require transportation. We should have our initial routes finalized in the next week.

COVID-19 Testing: Another important aspect of returning to in-person instruction is having testing readily available, especially for our teachers and staff. We have been working with MCOE and MHHS to provide up-to-date information about testing opportunities. Currently, all health care facilities in Marin are required to offer COVID-19 testing and most providers offer testing to patients who meet the testing criteria listed under "Who Should Get Tested" on this page. Kaiser has a "testing guide for essential teachers and school employees" for their subscribers that we shared with our employees. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting: Now, more than ever, we recognize the importance of making sure our schools and buildings are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. We are grateful to have our custodial staff serving as essential frontline workers. Last week, we met with our custodial team to review: training on equipment such as electrostatic cleaners; important daily tasks such as cleaning logs; training and instructions for sanitizing the many types of areas; expectations and requirements; and the details of the SSSPPs. 

We all want our children to return to our schools, while also ensuring the safety of our students, staff and community. Please continue to follow the recommendations of health experts and wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands frequently. Together, we can make a difference and get our kids back to school.

Jim Hogeboom