The Portola Valley School District has called a special meeting of the school board to discuss a waiver program that could allow elementary schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Aug. 20, the San Mateo County department of public health sent out waiver applications to all elementary school superintendents, according to the district's executive assistant Karen Lucian.
"The board is going to discuss the waiver and application process with the administration. This is not an action item, but I think if you attend you will likely get an idea of what the district's next steps might be," Lucian said.
The meeting will be broadcast via Google Meet, and the public can join at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27. A slot will be reserved for online public comment at the start of the meeting.
Although San Mateo County is currently on the state's coronavirus watch list, making county schools unable to open, elementary schools that successfully apply for the California Department of Public Health's waiver may be allowed to open. The waiver would apply to transitional kindergarten through sixth grade.
"In counties on the monitoring list, CDPH guidance allows a district superintendent, private school principal/head of school, or executive director of a charter school to apply for a waiver from the local health officer to open an elementary school for in-person instruction," the state's waiver application reads.
The watch list was announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom July 17, and tracks counties based on benchmarks for reopening, including positive COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations.
Portola Valley School District, which serves over 700 students across Ormondale School and Corte Madera School, announced in a July 24 board meeting that the district would start the fall semester fully online. The school year began on Aug. 21.
Notably, the district teachers union, Portola Valley Teachers Association, submitted a letter to the board July 25 which strongly expressed that it did not want teachers and students to return to campus amid the pandemic.
"The in-person 'COVID Classroom' would be no classroom at all," the union wrote. "With its social distancing, masks, and constant attention to sanitation, in-person instruction during a pandemic promises nothing less than a learning environment devoid of the very things that make school both beneficial and attractive to young learners."
The union went on to claim that in-person instruction classrooms amid the pandemic would be like a "hospital ward."