CALIFORNIA'S NEW COVID-19 ORDER AND MONITORING SYSTEM
You may be aware that the California Public Health Department changed the COVID-19 Order and Monitoring System. A new COVID-19 county-by-county colored tier status system was created at the State level on August 28th, 2020. COVID-19 restrictions are identified by tier colors. All individual counties in California are additionally required to follow specific county health departments. In the State's new structure, the most restrictive rules apply to Tier 1, and the least restrictive rules apply to Tier 4.
WHAT IS MHUSD'S PLAN TO CONSIDER IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION NOW THE COUNTY CHANGED TIER STATUS FROM PURPLE TO RED?
Because Santa Clara County moved to Tier 2 (Red) on September 8, 2020, schools in Morgan Hill, like all others in the rest of Santa Clara County, are eligible for reopening after September 22, 2020. As we have seen with any new order changing the closure circumstances for schools, the parents, students, staff, and businesses are anxious to know how this plan will change our lives. If schools open, they still must follow the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 General Checklist for Schools and School-Based Programs. Depending on transmission indicators, the County will stay at Tier 2 (red) status until the State moves Santa Clara County into Tier 3 (Orange) or back into Tier 1 (Purple). If staying in the Red Tier or better, schools are eligible to return to in-person instruction on September 23, 2020, but eligibility does not mean schools are required to return to in-person instruction. Although County Public Health could now approve a plan for in-person instruction, neither the county, nor the State makes the actual determination for in-person instruction in a district even if schools in a county are eligible. Each district makes its own determination of whether or not to return to in-person instruction, and if so, also when schools would return to in-person instruction.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TIER STATUS CHANGES?
Regardless of a determination to return to school buildings or not, the County Department of Public Health will continue to assess indicators weekly and keep or change tier levels accordingly. If a case rate and test positivity measures fall into two different tiers, the county will be assigned to the more restrictive tier. If Santa Clara County returns to Widespread Tier I (Purple), the State Reopening Framework applies, and any increased testing and assessment by schools and local public health offices would determine whether or not schools must close again.
WHAT WILL BE CONSIDERED IN MAKING A DETERMINATION?
Although we are encouraged by the recent status change for Santa Clara County as it gives hope for the possible return of students to the classroom somewhere on the horizon, we will not make a determination to reopen without considering many factors. Such considerations include input from our employees and parents, and the additional restrictions and processes imposed by the State and County. Also, an important consideration will be the potential disruption to instruction given the possibility of returning to in-person instruction, but then having to return to distance learning if the County falls back into the Purple Tier 1.
Our current plan enabled us to open up the year with distance learning and that is our current status until formally changed. We committed to revisit the conditions and orders to evaluate whether to continue distance learning or go back to in-person at the first grading period. We knew that if the virus was controlled, a possible return to school might be considered for the second quarter, the second trimester, or the second semester. Those milestone academic terms make instructional sense as they would be a logical grading period transition. The shifting of the orders actually align fairly well with our status review written into the reopening plan. In the plan, we gave notice to staff, families, and the community of the intent to analyze the conditions at the quarter and the trimester for considered changes.
We have an agenda item for discussion on this topic and the waiver topic at this Tuesday's Board Meeting, September 15, 2020. Staff and the Governing Board will consider all factors and opinions when making a determination to change the instructional delivery back to in-person or to delay returning to the school buildings. We can't know for certain if the virus would resurge in our County but such possibilities must be discussed.
Our highest interest is returning to in-person instruction in a safe manner. We know health and safety is the highest priority for our students, staff and all families. There are many factors to consider when addressing the return to in-person instruction. We will have students back in the classroom at some point. However, bringing students back to in-person learning will be done when we are confident in safety protocols, when we are fully prepared, and only when sufficient staff, facilities, and support structures are in place.
Join us at the Board meeting to hear the dialogue on this topic. The Zoom link will be available on the front page of our website on Monday evening. If you'd like to address the Board, you may complete a speaker card also located on the front page of our website.