With San Luis Obispo County moving into California's most restrictive COVID-19 tier, the SLO County Office of Education hosted a “returning to school safely” webinar to explain to parents what that now means for them.
Reopening timelines could change for some schools. In the purple tier, schools that have not reopened at all will have to stay closed until SLO County climbs back into the red tier and stays there for two weeks.
But with most SLO County schools in the middle of a phased reopening, county health official Dr. Penny Borenstein said it’s going to take reviewing to determine which schools can continue with their plans.
“I think [schools] would have had to have an approved district plan for reopening," Borenstein said. "And at least brought back some students, even if it's just the orientation process.”
In the purple tier, elementary schools (K-6) can still reopen if they apply for a waiver. Borenstein said she believes safety guidelines for children can be followed to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I can tell you unequivocally that children do much better with masks than adults," Borenstein said. "I have heard from all the schools that are open they hardly notice, and this is amongst even the youngest age groups.”
While some schools continue with in-person instruction, Borenstein said the state has given them guidelines on when a school may be forced to close again, such as an outbreak.
“If five percent of the school population including students and staff have tested positive," Borenstein said. "That would be a marker for considering the closing of the school.”
Parents are in charge of keeping their kids home if they show any signs of sickness. Karen Grandoli, superintendent at the San Miguel Joint Union School District said they are actively sending home kids if they show symptoms for the virus, such as a persistent cough.
"Of course there are times if it's allergies or asthma," Grandoli said. "It would be great if parents can be proactive and give us those types of notes so that we are aware if they have allergies or asthma or other things that could be causing those symptoms.”
Most of the school districts in the county are holding on to hope they can reopen some in-person instruction for middle and high school students in January, but those plans can only happen if the county progresses into the red tier by then.