Pacifica’s private schools have been slowly welcoming students back to campus — with precautions to forestall the spread of COVID-19. For now, though, the city’s public schools are relying on remote learning.
Good Shepherd School reopened for in-person classes, although parents have the option to continue with distance learning through Dec. 18. Kindergarten through second grade retuned Oct. 26. Third- through fifth-graders came back on Nov. 2, and sixth- through eighth-graders returned Nov. 9.
Pacific Bay Christian School received a waiver from the county to hold fourth- and fifth-grade classes up to four days a week starting Oct. 8 by gradually adding one day a week, said Michael Chen, head of school. For the week of Nov. 2, they were up to three days a week.
Pacific Bay has three cohort groups; one is virtual. Parents can opt to be in the virtual cohort group if they are uncomfortable having students return to campus. Middle school and high school students were gradually brought back in cohort groups beginning Oct. 19 for one hour, socially distanced, once a week for three weeks. Then, starting Nov. 4, the sessions transitioned to one day a week for one cohort group at a time. That group will rotate with the other one.
“We plan to do that for the rest of November and then evaluate to see if we will continue the same way in December or go to our next level plan. Once our community members are ready, we are approved to have students on campus for four days in a row and off for six days in a row in a two-week period,” said Chen. “Please know that PacBay’s approach is that we want students to be on campus because we know that young people need it for educational and social-emotional health reasons. At the same time, we recognize our responsibilities to support the county’s effort to curb the transmission of COVID-19.
“We believe that our plan is sound and thorough, as approved by the county, and our implementation and training are thoughtful and careful,” he said.
However, Pacifica’s public schools are not ready to return to in-person learning. Pacifica School District Superintendent Heather Olsen said the district is working on getting students back to school to do hybrid learning by the third week of January. For PSD, that means students attend school two days a week and then complete school work at home for three days.
“We have a Return to School Task Force working on developing plans to return,” she said. “We have recently entered into a contract for COVID-19 testing for employees when students return, and we are looking to hire up to seven additional custodians to help with
additional cleaning and disinfecting during the school day.
“It is only an indication that the measures that San Mateo County residents are taking are influencing the spread of the virus,” she said. “We still need to submit the same plans to the San Mateo County Office of Education and San Mateo County Health for approval.”
The board of the Jefferson Union High School District will meet often over the next months to weigh all the factors in returning to school for in-person learning.
“We understand that the best place for students is in the classroom, and we want our students back as soon as possible,” said JUHSD Board President Kalimah Salahuddin. “Based on the continuous spread of COVID-19 in our communities, we are not in a place to plan for return to school at this moment. We will
continue the discussion so that we can ensure a return to school that keeps students, staff, and our community safe.”