Back in class

After closing for winter break, students returned to Joe Hamilton School on Monday.

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Students across Del Norte County returned to class Monday as the county continues to buck the trend of school shutdowns.

Superintendent Jeff Harris said as long as the district is allowed to remain open, it will do so. The key, he said, is students and their families doing everything they can to not bring COVID-19 into the classroom.

“To help prevent the transmission and quarantine of students and staff, we are encouraging families to consider requesting an independent study contract for up to two weeks following out-of-town visits or if they hosted out-of-town guests,” Harris said. “This allows your children to continue to participate with their teacher and other classmates virtually but would also allow time for you to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 or get tested for COVID prior to returning to school.”

Harris said the school board has made it clear offering in-person learning is a priority and only two things would force the district to close schools: an executive order or a breakout in a school that would not leave enough teachers to open.

Harris said the district is hoping to get teachers vaccinated soon to eliminate the second threat.

“We have had some very preliminary discussions with public health about COVID vaccines for educational staff,” he said. “The state has committed to putting educators at the top of the list for vaccines, and we will continue to work with public health and out staff to get vaccines out to our staff as soon as possible.”

Harris said the governor recently announced a new plan for schools, called the Safe Schools for All plan. The plan includes four major components: funding, discussion of safety and mitigation, oversight and assistance and transparency and accountability. The goal is to return students across the state to class.

“Del Norte is already engaged in in-person learning, so we will be closely following the details of the proposal over the next few weeks to see how it may impact us,” Harris said.

Harris said another bill in the Legislature is also being discussed.

“You may also hear about an emergency bill in the California Legislature – AB10,” Harris said. “The bill would require schools to move to in-person learning as soon as they are able to do so. Again, since our district is already doing in-person learning, this bill will have little impact on us.”

Harris did explain that Del Norte is not under a mandatory stay-at-home order like much of the state. California split the state into five regions and the stay-at-home order kicks in when the ICU capacity at hospitals in the region fall below 15 percent. The Northern California region had 35 percent capacity this week.

Harris urged students and families to continue to take precautions such as wearing masks, washing hands and, most importantly, staying home if they are sick.

Harris also announced a new resource for Del Norte County families. He said connectdelnorte.org is a website the district helped put together that can help connect local families with needed resources. Whether it’s a job search, food assistance, medical care of school related, the website will have information to help.

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