Obstacles remain for in-person learning at San Carlos School District

in Education

Requirements on teacher vaccinations and community case rates remain obstacles standing in the way of the transition to in-person learning at the San Carlos School District, and current social distancing requirements in classrooms and other campus settings will prevent a return to full in-person learning next fall, School Board President Neil A. Layton said in a statement Friday.

Layton acknowledged the growing frustration in the school community over the pace at which the district is reopening. On Feb. 22, the district began phasing in two afternoons of in-person learning per week for K-5 students.

Students cannot transition to the district’s hybrid model for in-person learning — which includes four in-person days per week in the morning or afternoon for K-3, and two mornings of in-person learning per week for grades 4-8, per the reopening plan —  until all teachers have had an opportunity to be fully vaccinated, or when the County reaches the orange tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, according to an agreement reached between the school district and its teachers union. Currently, all teachers have been offered their first vaccination, and the county is in the red tier, which is one tier away from reaching the less restrictive orange tier.

The transition to full in-person learning in the fall is also in question due to current social distancing guidelines within classrooms and in-person gatherings. The state’s Department of Public Health suggests 6 feet social distancing within classrooms, with a 4 foot social distancing requirement, while the San Mateo County Office of Education requires 6 feet in social distancing.

“Based on the physical size of our classrooms, number of students, and necessary classroom equipment, we would not be able to fit all students on campus full time,” Layton said. “Additionally, continued limits on gatherings impact our ability to offer drama, music, and other performance based activities. Therefore, we must plan for the possibility that if these requirements are not lifted, continued hybrid instruction may be necessary.”

Layton says the Board “hears the frustration of our community that full in-person learning is limited.”

“That is why we are actively advocating at the state and county level to have metrics for when these distancing and gathering rules can be lifted to return to full in-person learning and to request the resources and support that are necessary to provide additional in-person instruction if these restrictions remain in place,” Layton said. “As a result, we continue to plan the 2021-22 school year with all possibilities.”

By contrast, the Redwood City School District began reopening campuses in January with partner-led hubs, teacher-staffed pods, and either a.m. or p.m. in-class instruction, according to the district’s reopening schedule. The RCSD plans to increase the number of students doing in-person learning starting Monday, March 22.

“All students, PreK-8, wishing to return to in-person teaching and learning at their school will have the opportunity to participate in the gradual staggered return to their schools starting Monday, March 22,” according to a district statement Friday.

An update on the RCSD spring reopening plan was set to be heard at the district’s upcoming meeting on Wednesday, March 10.

Photo courtesy of San Carlos School District