Good Afternoon Royals Family!
We have reached the end of the first full week of school and I am extremely proud of the work that students and staff (and parents!) have put in over the past seven days. We could not have asked for a better start under the circumstances.
But please also know that as well as the start has gone, we are still eager to get students back on campus. The big question, of course, is ‘when is that likely to happen?’ The short answer is, ‘when two things come to pass,’ but those two things are largely under the control of others.
Step 1-SLO County needs to get off the state’s “Watch List”
If we are given the chance to reopen in September or October (or whenever!), we will. But before we can do that, SLO County needs to be off the state’s “watch list,” and the county needs to stay off the “watch list” for two straight weeks.
SLO County is on the “watch list” because we have a high number of active Covid cases. The California Department of Public Health has determined that schools should be closed in all counties that have over 100 active cases per every 100,000 residents. SLO County has about 280,000 residents and that means before any high school in our area can think about reopening, our active case count needs to be under 280 and stay under 280 for a couple of weeks (we were over 400 for the first two weeks of August). Since the average Covid case lasts about two weeks, that means our county needs to average under 20 new cases a day for two weeks straight (we’ve been averaging around 40 a day for the past two weeks). AND all of the other measurements need to stay under the “watch list” limits as well.
If you want to know more, our county health data is updated every workday at 1pm on this website:
Step 2-Reopening must be applied for and approved by SLO County Public Health
Once a county is off the watch list, each school then still needs to ask for and be granted permission from the local County Department of Public Health to reopen, and there are at least four things our State government is saying that all schools have to do in order to get that permission (https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-schools.pdf ). Specifically, for any school to reopen they must submit a reopening plan and, at minimum, the reopening plan must:
- require masks be worn at all times by both adults and all students
- require adults stay at least 6ft from each other and from students at all times
- require the entire staff to be tested for COVID-19 every two months
- require students to practice social distancing at all times “to the degree practicable”
As you can see, these first two points are fairly straight forward but the second two points have some very important unanswered questions (‘how can the staff get tested every two months when access to testing in SLO County for asymptomatic cases is difficult/not allowed?’ AND ‘who gets to define “practicable?”’ Is it the school or is it the local health officials?).
Then there is the further possibility that a local health department could have additional standards or measurements, beyond the state guidance.
In all of my conversations with the local health department they have been very open and collegial. They don’t think they’ll be adding any additional standards, but they could always change their mind based on local conditions at the moment we actually arrive at reopening. They have not yet addressed the other questions about test access and “practicable” distancing.
So, once the numbers go down, we still don’t actually know if we’ll be able to have all students back on campus right away or if we’ll need to come back in waves or cohorts. We need to wait and see what the Health Department decides when we work with them on our plan.
What about the “Waiver” option?
Some of you might have heard that the state left the option open for a school to submit a waiver allowing them to reopen sooner. But there is no such thing as a waiver for high schools. Schools up to Grade 6 can apply for a waiver to reopen, even before their county is off the watch list, but Grades 7-12 are all dependent on the watch list.
So, we are watching our local health numbers. We need our county numbers to continue improving, we need the local health office (or state) to define what “practicable” student distancing actually means, then we can submit our plan, get it approved, and we’ll be ready to restart on-campus instruction.
Please continue to pray for positive outcomes to this crisis and please know that every time I’ve dealt with our local health office they have been hugely supportive of re-opening schools, they just have some very strict limits they need to follow and they want to make sure things are safe so that once the do reopen, schools can actually stay open because they did so safely.
Thank you for your time, I am eager to answer any other questions that I can on this topic, so please just email me and I’ll do my best. There will be an after to this crisis and WeWill arrive there as a community.
Yours in Christ,