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10/2/20 Update: Important Update on Testing and In-Person Learning
Posted 10/2/20

Dear San Rafael City Schools Community,

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable populations across the country and in Marin, and specifically many families in our SRCS community. We are grateful to the organizations and individuals that are fighting these injustices and providing support and care to those most affected. As a leader of our District, I can say that we have been grappling with our unique challenge of desperately wanting to bring back all our students to all our schools, while also facing the public health crisis at hand. We have spent the past several months analyzing when to implement our hybrid learning plans, with the safety of our students and staff at the center of our decision-making process. We have been collaborating very closely with our partners at Marin Health and Human Services (MHHS), including weekly meetings to share information.

We are making strides in our efforts to transition from being fully remote to hybrid learning, and have some important updates below. 

Elementary Schools (TK-5)
We had hoped to be able to share more definitive information and a timeline for bringing back our elementary students to in-person learning with our “AM / PM” hybrid plan, but unfortunately, we are not able to do so today. In consultation with MHHS, given the current data at hand, there is too high of a prevalence in our San Rafael community to be able to say that we can safely open up our schools for all our students. 

With that said, we are partnering with MHHS 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. Please stay tuned for information about testing opportunities! We remain in constant communication with MHHS, and we’ll again analyze the data in another two weeks. At that time, we’re committed to sharing a timeline for what the rest of 2020 will look like. We intend to provide at least a two-week lead time to families before we begin the hybrid schedule, and we remain hopeful that it could be in the beginning of November.

Middle Schools (6-8)
The next phase for middle schoolers includes in-person advisory and possibly one period for all students. At this point, we are still coordinating with our teachers and leaders to decide on a hybrid learning timeline (though it will be no sooner than Nov. 2). I am hopeful we can share a plan soon, as well as updates about how we are bringing back targeted groups of students for some small, in-person learning. 

At the same time, I believe we have the opportunity to reflect on and refine our remote learning schedule for Davidson Middle School. We have received significant feedback and perspective from students and families about how we could improve and better meet their expectations. While we strived to find a balanced approach to meet the needs of all our students and our teachers are working very hard, I’ve asked our Middle School Re-entry Task Force to reconvene to see what improvements and modifications can be made. I’ll keep you updated. 

High Schools (9-12)
Based on public health guidance and in the best interest of our SRCS community, we are not planning to move to the next phase of hybrid in-person learning for all high school students until the start of the new semester in January 2021 at the earliest. There are complexities of keeping students and staff safe in large high school settings that switch classes throughout the day. I know this is very difficult to hear, and I am sorry that our high schoolers will not benefit from in-person learning this semester. However, similarly to middle school, we’re working to bring back targeted groups of high school students for some small, in-person learning as soon as possible. 

Closing Thoughts
I completely understand the frustration that many of our parents and students have with how difficult remote learning is, and that for many students this type of learning does not work well. I am sorry that we do not have more definitive information at this time, but hope everyone will understand the need to return to school when conditions are as safe as possible. 

Across all grades and schools, I can assure you that our District administrators, school leaders and labor groups are working together to proceed cautiously and thoughtfully, but also with urgency. Additionally, I want to thank our partners at MHHS for their support and for prioritizing our San Rafael community. We are addressing all issues regarding safety, including ventilation, transportation, cleaning and more - so that when the time is right, we are ready to move smoothly to the next phase and welcome students back to our schools. As one example, check out this video about how we’re making sure our classrooms have proper ventilation. More videos to come!

I’ll end as I have before (I know you may think you’ve heard this enough, but it is more important now than ever): Please 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 all our kids back to school while also ensuring the safety of our students, staff and community. 

Jim Hogeboom