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COVID-19 School Re-Opening Update January 7, 2021

“Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of ‘not knowing.”   Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Pandemic/Re-Opening: Still in remote learning

As we had anticipated before the winter break, Marin County has remained in the Purple Tier for COVID-19 infections and the surge has continued.

For the Lagunitas School District that means we are not allowed to open school for limited  in-person learning as we had planned for Monday, January 11.  We are mandated to remain in distance learning mode until the county has reached the Red Tier and stayed there for 2 weeks or until the rules change. 

The school has a preliminary plan for beginning in-person learning and we will take steps to implement that plan when the Health Department allows us to do so. In the meantime, we are re-checking the school site and working with our employee groups to make sure we will be ready to welcome students back when the time comes. 

It is not possible to predict exactly when students will be allowed to return or when we will be able to expand in-person learning after they do.  I know this uncertainty can be frustrating, but the surge has made things even less predictable. As of this writing, the daily increase in cases was 122, far above the number needed to move back into the Red Tier.  Marin is doing better than many counites in reducing cases but there is much work to be done.  Unfortunately, many families in Marin travelled over the winter break and spent time indoors without masks with extended family and friends.  That has slowed our progress and we hope that people will abide more strictly by the stay at home order in the coming weeks. 

Reason to Be Hopeful

The data from Public Health shows  that opening schools does not have a negative impact on the spread of COVID-19. In fact, our Deputy Health Officer told us this week that it is safer for students to be in school than to stay at home.  The majority of transmissions have occurred in the home and when people have spent time with extended family and friends. When students are participating in distance learning, there is no way to track their social interactions.  When they are in school, we can do regular health check and ensure that they are observing social distancing and PPE guidance. 

COVID-19 testing is readily available. We are testing our employees as often as twice per month and non-invasive community testing is now available with a mobile testing facility at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center and at other locations throughout the county.

Rules may change. The state may amend school closure requirements and allow schools like ours to re-open when Marin is in the Purple Tier. The health department reported in a public meeting today that discussions about easing the requirements for re-opening are on-going. We will let you know if anything changes.

Vaccines are on the way. We are estimating that all school staff in Marin will have been offered a highly effective vaccine by the last week in February.  Nothing is certain but we hope to have all school staff vaccinated by the beginning of March. We expect that will have a major positive impact on our capacity to offer in-person learning later this year.

Next Year may be (almost) normal. With the advent of effective vaccines and improved knowledge about how the pandemic grows, heath experts are beginning to predict that when the 2021-2022 school year begins, school will be back to normal.  Some precautions may still be in place but there is good possibility that next fall we’ll be able to have full size classes, normal interactions with kids and adults, sports and social activities. A year from now we hope to be looking back on this time and viewing it as an historical moment, a rare event that our kids will tell their incredulous grandchildren about.  

For now, we can all contribute by continuing to do  all the things we know have helped: Wash our hands frequently, wear face coverings, stay at home except for essential travel, stay six feet away from others in public, etc. 

Although 2021 has had rocky (even bizarre) beginning, we have reason to be hopeful. Perhaps 2020 taught us some important things about ourselves- how to slow down, appreciate what is really important, be patient and realize that we always get to choose our response to whatever life brings us.  We can take whatever new found wisdom we have into a future where the circumstances may be brighter and more peaceful.