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SAN JOSE, CA – The Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and San Francisco County Superintendents of Schools in collaboration with the Public Health Officers in their respective counties, urge school administrators, teachers, and parents to work together to plan for full in-person instructional programs in classrooms for all grades in the fall and strongly encourage the continued use of face coverings as a common-sense risk reduction strategy.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bay Area county schools were united in their efforts to prioritize and maintain the safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the communities within these counties. They remain united in this effort, and families can feel safe returning to school campuses this fall.
“The numerous challenges within the past year surfaced hardships for staff, students, and families. These obstacles were confronted with collaboration and unity of efforts to serve staff, students, and families,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. “More than ever our collective strength was tested and our ability to partner effectively during times of crisis was revealed. We will uphold key learnings from the past year and ensure our school campuses are safe for students and staff.”
Public health researchers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health, and local health departments have learned from the research and the experiences of classroom instruction from the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021. In short, the risk of transmission among children wearing masks is very low, even with reduced spacing between desks.
In the Bay Area and throughout the state, many factors indicate that the risk of classroom transmission has decreased as community case rates have fallen. There are high rates of vaccination among people at increased risk of severe disease, including older adults and those with high risk of medical complications, and the overall community prevalence of COVID-19 is low. Therefore, the Bay Area County Superintendents of Schools are united in their message to urge all schools to plan for the full return to in-person instruction in the fall.
The California Department of Public Health’s reopening framework for schools offers guidelines for limiting the spread of infection and requirements for face covering, basic cleaning, enhanced ventilation, and other measures to facilitate a safe return to in-person instruction. Schools have implemented these practices and brought students and teachers back to campus.
Students, parents, teachers, coaches – and their families – have made considerable sacrifices throughout the pandemic. Thankfully, the conditions now allow schools to offer the full range of learning and support programs that our educational communities typically provide.
The current guidance for schools is based on evidence from the CDC that shows vaccines are extremely effective in protecting vaccinated individuals from infection, severe illness, and death, as well as preventing them from spreading COVID-19 to others. Additionally, increasing vaccination rates helps mitigate the spread of new variants that are more likely to infect those who are unvaccinated. The wearing of face coverings in schools complements vaccinations and helps protect people who cannot yet get vaccinated, people who may not get the full benefit from the vaccine, and people with weakened immune systems. All persons aged 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The end of the school year heralds the season of summer activities, and allows us time to resume routine visits to pediatricians and dentists; activities that we may not have been able to engage in just a few months ago,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dewan. “While we anticipate outings and gatherings with family and friends in the coming weeks, we must continue to be mindful of the health and wellness of ourselves and others and urge everyone we know who is eligible to get vaccinated. These practices help further ensure our plan to return to full, in-person instruction this fall.”
The governor has announced plans to end the tier system on June 15 and fully reopen California’s economy, as long as vaccine supply remains sufficient to meet demand and hospitalization rates are stable and low. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, free and effective, and are now available to everyone aged 12 and up. Visit sccFreeVax.org to book an appointment or find a drop-in location near you.
About the Santa Clara County Office of Education
Working collaboratively with school and community partners, the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) is a regional service agency that provides instructional, business, and technology services to the 31 school districts of Santa Clara County. The County Office of Education directly serves students through special education programs, alternative schools, Head Start and State Preschool programs, migrant education, and Opportunity Youth Academy. The SCCOE also provides academic and fiscal oversight and monitoring to districts in addition to the 22 Santa Clara County Board of Education authorized charter schools.