The county is encouraging school districts to implement distance-learning models that could offer online content, paper packets, extended readings and research, at-home projects and other options, if feasible. School facilities may be used by faculty and staff to manage distance-learning efforts. The order is effective until April 3.
The county's order came on the heels of the announcements by four local public school districts that they were closing their campuses to students and moving to distance learning for the next several weeks because of the virus threat.
Sequoia Union High, Portola Valley, Menlo Park City and Woodside Elementary school districts made announcements on March 11 and March 12 that they would close for in-person classes starting this week. There are about 17 schools across the four districts' campuses.
The Sequoia district, which serves nearly 10,000 students, was set to begin distance learning, using an online platform called Canvas, on March 16, according to an email to district families late last week.
District officials are "hopeful" that the schools can resume in-person classes after spring break, which begins March 30. If the district determines it can't reopen classrooms on April 6, it will notify families by April 3.
Portola Valley district schools are on a minimum-day schedule today to allow teachers to prepare instructional materials for distance learning, which will begin on March 18, according to the district website. Teachers at the district's two schools, Ormondale and Corte Madera , will also prepare distance-learning materials on March 16 and 17. The campuses will be closed to students through the end of spring break on April 5.
The Woodside district's plan mirrors Portola Valley's strategy, with teachers preparing materials on March 16 and 17 and students beginning distance learning on March 18.
"On a personal level, I empathize with the disruption that this will cause to your lives," Woodside district Superintendent Steve Frank told parents in a late March 12 afternoon email. "I believe strongly in protecting the health and safety of everyone in the school community, and this decision, in my opinion, is for the greater good."
Las Lomitas Elementary School District closed its two schools, which are in Atherton and Menlo Park, on March 16 to allow staff to prepare distance learning materials. Superintendent Beth Polito sent a survey to district parents on March 10 to determine families' hardware and internet connectivity needs, she said in a March 11 email to The Almanac.
The Menlo Park district announced plans on March 11 to offer families the choice of either having their children complete coursework from home or continuing to attend in-person classes, starting this week. The district's school board voted unanimously during a March 12 meeting to reverse this decision, and instead shut down schools beginning this week.
Private school closures
• On March 11, Menlo College in Atherton, which serves about 850 students, announced it will move to online instruction starting on March 18. Classes were canceled for March 16 and 17.
• Menlo School in Atherton announced on March 12 that it was closing its campus effective immediately. The closure of the school, which serves students in grades six through 12, is effective at least through the end of spring break on April 13.
• Sacred Heart Schools, a private Atherton school, announced on March 11 that beginning on March 16, the school would move to online instruction. It tentatively plans to reopen on April 14.
• Woodside Priory, St. Raymond and Nativity schools: Three local Archdiocese of San Francisco schools announced last week that they would close for two weeks due to the virus threat. The announcement followed the confirmation that a student at one of the archdiocese's San Francisco schools tested positive for COVID-19.
Although children generally appear to be less affected by severe symptoms and tend to develop mild cases of the virus, they are still able to spread it to others, including people who have more severe responses to the virus, experts such as Dr. Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Berkeley, have noted.
It's also been reported that people with compromised immune systems, a group that includes some children, become more ill when they contract the virus.
There are more than 160,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide as of March 16.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed 41 cases of the virus in the county as of the morning of March 16, and one death, according to the San Mateo County health department's website.
There have been 114 cases of the virus confirmed in nearby Santa Clara County as of March 16, according to the county's health department website.
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