A waiver system that would have allowed elementary schools (defined as grades K through 6) to open even if their county was on the state’s watchlist has been put on hold as the scope of the problem with the data available has become clear.
“Some schools have applied for waivers for K through 6, and we will begin reviewing those once the state data glitches have completely resolved and our county numbers have been corrected,” said Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase in her Monday update.
In his own press conference on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the database failure had been fixed, and that nearly 300,000 backlogged tests had been processed. However, no exact has been given as to when the county numbers will be updated.
“We know this is a significant hardship on students and a heavy burden on households,” Mase said. “Getting kids back to school is one of our top priorities. Whether we really do open K through 12 schools is really about case rate — if rates go above 200 per 100,000 this does prohibit waivers altogether. We will be looking at the data as soon as we know its accurate and see what our case rate is. We will keep you informed on that.”
Mase went on to briefly outline the standards schools must meet to be granted a waiver, if the case rate should prove to be under 200 per 100,000, including “proper cleaning and disinfecting, screening for students and staff, physical and social distancing and, of course, facial coverings.”
“We’ll let you know further whether waivers will be considered based on our case rate when we finalize the data,” Mase concluded. “This whole process of school closures and waivers will be a labor-intensive process and will require the endurance that Sonoma County families have shown time and time again. We want to assure parents that we want your kids in school as much as you do, but we also want them to be safe. The first step to getting our kids back to school is to get those transmission rates down so your kids can go to school without putting (anyone) in danger.”
In response, some local schools which had planned to file for waivers have announced they will be going forward with opening in distance learning for the time being, since the waiver process takes at least 14 days, and it’s unknown when that countdown will start. With most school starting in the next two weeks, receiving a waiver in time is unlikely.