County Superintendents Agreement
Updated: March 11, 2020
Santa Clara County Superintendents
Joint Guidance Regarding COVID-19 Response
March 7, 2020 – April 10, 2020
This document represents our collective agreements for all districts in Santa Clara County.
These agreements will be re-evaluated and updated as additional information becomes available.
I. SCHOOL CLOSURES
The Public Health Department currently is not recommending closing schools. Among other reasons, individuals under 18 years of age have been identified as a low-risk group relative to the virus. If a staff member or student in a specific school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Public Health Department will consider, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school is warranted. Public Health’s guidance is that the disruption caused by school closure currently outweighs the potential benefits of using school closure to slow disease transmission. Closing schools is a last resort and will be done with great care, transparency, and in partnership with Public Health. These recommendations may be updated upon further evaluation and public health need.
No school closures will occur without the authorization of Public Health in consultation with the district and the County Superintendent of Schools. Closure events may be of short duration to allow deep cleaning to occur, or of longer duration, depending on the circumstances of the situation, and will be decided on a case by case basis.
II. EVENT CANCELLATIONS
The most recent guidance from Public Health is that there are four considerations in evaluating events; 1) the size of the gathering, 2) the mix of individuals from various areas and age brackets, 3) the ability of individuals at events to remain at arms-length distance from each other, and 4) the duration of the event.
- Any events for which the four considerations listed above cannot be assured should be cancelled or postponed.
- All non-essential, non-instructional events should be cancelled or postponed if they are in spaces that do not permit participants to remain at arms-length distance from one another. Individuals in high-risk categories should not attend. Individuals who are not feeling well should not attend.
At the present time, Public Health recommends that non-essential travel of both students and staff be suspended due to the potential to increase the risk of transmission of novel coronavirus into other communities.
All district sponsored events involving travel outside of the county, athletic league area, or outside a 30 mile radius should be cancelled or postponed
District sponsored out of state travel ( such as DC, festivals, competitions, international travel) should be cancelled pending further updates.
IV. SCCOE OUTDOOR SCHOOL
SCCOE Outdoor School Program at Walden West will remain open. SCCOE will employ enhanced cleaning and safety protocols. Students and staff will maintain arms-length proximity during meals, sleeping, and other activities. Individuals who are not well should not attend and all attendees should adhere to public health guidelines for those with existing medical conditions.
V. MESSAGE FOR PARENTS
Why aren’t schools being closed since COVID-19 appears to be spreading?
Santa Clara County Public Health Department is working closely with SCCOE to provide guidance to districts and schools. Broadly closing schools is a decision that is not taken lightly and is a last resort as it causes significant community disruption. The most important reason we are not recommending school closures is because children are at low risk for COVID-19.
Another very important reason we’re not closing schools right now is because of how much it disrupts society. Not every family or parent has the time off or the financial security to stay home from work with their child. Many families also rely on schools and staff for basic needs for their children, including regular meals, health care and child care. If schools shut down, vulnerable families will experience the greatest burden and suffer negative impacts.
Potential workforce shortages due to closed schools may blunt our health care system’s response to COVID-19. Additionally, there may be an increase in exposure for the most vulnerable people in our community – older individuals as they may be caring for children at home.
We recognize that some children have underlying health conditions, such as weakened immune systems, that put them at higher risk. Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home from school.
Currently, if a staff member or student in a specific school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Public Health Department will work with individual schools, school districts and the County Office of Education, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school is warranted.
School districts recognize that the added burden of oversight and threats of truancy due to absences are counterproductive at this time. Therefore, efforts to address chronic absenteeism and implementing rules around truancy should be suspended.
Sample messages for parents with concerns about sending children who are well to school:
Be assured that we are closely monitoring and following the direction of the Santa Clara County Health Department and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. As of this morning (Monday, March 9) both agencies continue the guidance that school sites remain open and that students who are well continue to attend school. As such, we will continue to code any student who chooses to not attend school based on the concern of contracting the COVID-19 virus as “Unexcused.” That being said, we also understand that families can still make a choice to keep their child(ren) at home during this time and for the next few weeks we will not be taking any truancy action or disenrolling students accruing “Unexcused Absences”. However, please be informed that we do not have the capacity to provide instructional support for well students who stay at home. If a student has extenuating health circumstances, please contact your site administrator to identify appropriate next steps.
Please know that we share your concerns and that student and staff safety is a top priority. As such, we are instituting enhanced cleaning of our school sites and reinforcing hand washing best practices, as recommended by the Health Department. In addition, we are working with the Santa Clara Health Department and Santa Clara County Office of Education to monitor student and staff absences.
We will continue to communicate information to our parents and staff as it becomes available.
VII. BOARD MEETINGS
Board meetings should proceed as scheduled and with these considerations in mind:
- Accommodations should be made to ensure adequate distance between attendees. Alternate meeting locations, properly noticed, can be considered to provide additional space between attendees.
- Districts may wish to offer alternate seating to permit viewing in other area of the facility or to livestream the meeting.
- Stakeholders should be reminded not to attend if they are ill or in a high-risk group.
- Boards may wish to consider meeting duration as a possible risk factor.
VIII. STATE TESTING
State assessments will continue. Districts have flexibility within their testing window to adjust test administration dates. There is no authority to opt out of the legal requirement for statewide assessments.
Should schools be closed by the Public Health Department during state testing, the CDE will work with the district to respond to the situation.