The Pleasanton Unified School District appears to now anticipate not being able to reopen elementary school campuses for in-person classroom instruction on Jan. 4 in light of new guidance from state and local health officials after Alameda County was reverted back into the state's COVID-19 purple tier this week.
While most of the focus was on the closure of indoor dining and other business restrictions after Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement on Monday, a subsequent statement from the Alameda County Public Health Department and new comments from PUSD Superintendent David Haglund elaborated on the impacts to local school districts that have not yet reopened, like PUSD.
"Effective Nov. 18, no additional schools may open for in-person instruction, and Alameda County is not offering a waiver process for elementary schools. Schools that are not open are encouraged to utilize the State's school-based small cohort guidance," ACPHD said in its statement late Monday afternoon. "Any school that currently has students attending classes in person may continue to do so."
PUSD, which had been working toward reopening elementary school campuses for hybrid in-person learning for students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade on Jan. 4, is now faced with the strong likelihood of that date being postponed indefinitely, especially if Alameda County's COVID rates don't improve -- and improve quickly.
"The move out of the purple tier may not come until we have achieved data from a less restrictive tier for several weeks. This will require us to shift our current plans for January, pending future ACPHD guidance," Haglund said in a statement to the PSUD community on Tuesday afternoon.
"While this is disheartening, it should serve as a vital call to action for us to adhere to current health guidance as the holiday season approaches. The ways in which we adjust activities and behaviors will pave the way for a return to some kind of normalcy," Haglund added.
Citing soaring rates of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in counties across the state, Newsom and the California Department of Public Health moved Alameda County into the purple tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy this week after documenting an adjusted rate of seven cases per 100,000 people.
County officials hope news of the regression will inspire bold, consistent action by residents to take the necessary steps to help stem the potential spread of the coronavirus amid the case surge, according to Dr. Nicholas Moss, who on Tuesday was promoted to the permanent role of county health officer.
"We need Alameda County residents and businesses to, once again, rise to the challenge and help flatten the curve," Moss said. "Stay home for the holidays, wear face masks, maintain at least 6 feet of distance, wash your hands frequently, and get your flu shot. Now more than ever, we must protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors with these simple strategies. We all must recommit ourselves to the safety measures that helped us lower case rates in September and October."
Haglund, likewise, encouraged families and employees throughout PUSD to follow local and state guidelines to help improve COVID-19 conditions. He also assured stakeholders that district officials would keep on working toward the eventual reopening of school campuses.
"We will continue to plan logistics for reopening elementary and preschools, so that we are prepared when that opportunity becomes available. As we have since the beginning of this process, we will engage in that work with the health and safety of our students, staff and community on top of mind," Haglund said.
"At the same time, we will work to expand our small cohort student support programs, which are allowed under purple tier guidelines and encouraged in Monday's ACPHD statement. This strategy provides an opportunity to address both academic challenges, as well as the isolation and mental health needs of students," he continued, later adding:
"As we have always done, the team will closely monitor the local health conditions and provide updates regarding the future reopening of schools. Please know that we care deeply for the physical and mental well being of each of our students and employees. We understand that this news will not be received well by many, given that the related needs are significant and the consequences impactful. We are doing our very best to navigate this health pandemic with respect and thoughtfulness."