Schools in Santa Clara County will likely be allowed to reopen in two weeks, but that doesn’t mean that they will.
The county has moved from the purple to the red tier on the state’s watch list. If coronavirus cases stay down, the schools are legally allowed to reopen in two weeks.
The move from purple to the red allows gyms, shopping malls, museums, zoos and aquariums to reopen at limited capacities. It also means schools can reopen without applying for a waiver for special permission from the state and county.
Union deal delays Palo Alto’s reopening
If Santa Clara County remains off the purple watch list for the next two weeks, Palo Alto elementary schools will reopen on Oct. 12. That date was agreed upon by the district and the teacher’s union, which had urged the district to postpone reopening because teachers are scared to go back in the classroom.
Superintendent Don Austin said the reopening date won’t be pushed up but a decrease in cases will mean it isn’t pushed back either.
Union president Teri Baldwin told the Post that the delayed reopening date is to give teachers time to switch over and to make sure the county is off the watch list for a while. She said the union is looking out for the safety of students and teachers by keeping schools closed.
“Being in the red doesn’t mean we are free and clear of this virus,” she said.
The district hasn’t determined a date for secondary schools to reopen. Austin said the board will discuss those reopening at its Sept. 22 meeting. Small groups of high-needs children returned to school this week.
Special ed teachers don’t feel safe returning
The district is trying to bring more special education students back to campus but has met resistance from teachers. A number of special education teachers told the school board on Tuesday (Sept. 8) that they don’t feel safe coming back to the classroom.
Brittany Erwin, a special education teacher at JLS Middle School, said she doesn’t think students and teachers are safe if they come back in person. She said she wants special education classes to return at the same time as other classes, not early.
Parents have said at board meetings that special needs students haven’t had their needs met virtually.
Austin said the district is currently negotiating with the teachers. He said there is a “difference of opinion.”
Mountain View Whisman School District spokeswoman Shelly Hausman said the new county numbers don’t change district plans.
The district previously estimated it will take at least 12 weeks before students can return to campus part-time because they need to train teachers and survey parents.
Los Altos School District had previously applied for a waiver with the county to bring back kindergarten through third graders and needy students. Superintendent Jeff Baier did not respond to a question about the district changing its reopening plans.
Meanwhile, San Mateo County is remaining in the purple section of the state’s list. County Manager Mike Callagy said Wednesday that San Francisco and Santa Clara counties got into the red section of the list because they had more help from the state with testing.
Callagy said that the county has been steady with its 7.8-per-100,000 infected rate, the state’s threshold for being in the purple is 7 per 100,000.
State gives some counties ‘credits’
San Francisco has the same rate of 7.8 per 100,000 and Santa Clara County has a higher rate of 8.4 per 100,000, according to the state’s website. But because they both have what Callagy referred to as “credits” due to the massive amount of testing done in those two counties, their numbers were reduced to 5.1 in San Francisco and 6.9 in Santa Clara County.
Callagy noted that aside from help from the state in his county’s two neighbors, both counties have large hospitals — UCSF, San Francisco General and Stanford — to help with the testing. Meanwhile, San Mateo County has been making do with its testing by
Verily and has been working to make sure testing is available to those most at risk for COVID-19.
Callagy said that he never got a “satisfactory” answer from the state as to why San Mateo County was denied extra help from the state while the other two counties received it.