In a letter released on Jan. 8, Windsor Unified School District Superintendent Jeremy Decker addressed the newly released guidelines for school reopening released by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“There is also a lot of information floating around regarding the reopening of our schools, some accurate and some not so accurate. In the following, I will attempt to explain some of the recent developments, and the effects on the school district,” begins the letter. “Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a proposal to encourage schools to resume in-person instruction as early as (Feb.16) for students in grades TK-2, and (March 15) for students in grades 3-6, by providing incentive grants under the new ‘Safe Schools for All Plan.’ In his speech on (Dec. 30) he stated that schools could apply for the grants if the average rate of infections in a county over a seven day period were less than 28 cases per 100,000 residents.”
While the new plan is a significant change from previous guidelines for reopening schools, the county of Sonoma is still not eligible to take part. As of Jan. 11, the case rater per 100,000 per seven days was 40.2, making the county ineligible for the new grants and plans.
Because of this, the district will continue in distance learning until these numbers change. However, according to Decker’s letter, the district is still moving forward with a phased-in approach to reopening schools, using a seven-phase reopening plan.
According to Decker, phases 1 through 5 are planned to happen when the county enters into the red tier, but they will not all happen at the same time. Instead, they will be phased in based on the metrics of adjusted case rate, positivity rate and Health Equity Quartile continuing to improve. See the table below for the order of return.
Decker’s letter also touched on the issue of vaccination.
“It has been established that school personnel will be the first group to be offered vaccines in phase 1b, which is the next tier of priority after the current 1a phase hopefully wraps up in late January or early February. Getting all of our school personnel vaccinated could be a potential game changer for reopening,” he said. “There are a number of things that still need to be worked out, such as who is administering the vaccine, where it will take place, whether or not it is required, how long it will take to get everyone vaccinated, etc. Be that as it may, I am extremely excited that school personnel have been moved up to phase 1b for the vaccines as it can only positively impact us with regard to offering in-person instruction sooner than we would have been able to offer it otherwise. Phase 1b has not been a priority for planning, but I anticipate that we should be receiving more information in the coming weeks that explain what this process looks like for our school district employees.”
Decker acknowledged the frustration that community members feel about the uncertainty and added that he shares them. However, he also stated that recent vaccine news has made him hopeful.
“Let’s all hold out hope that we can get staff vaccinated in a safe and timely fashion, the rates of COVID-19 in our community begin to decline, and the ICU bed availability improves. I promise you that we will be ready to welcome students back into the classroom when the time comes as we are actively planning for that day,” his letter concluded.