County COVID numbers allow for the potential opening of TK-6 schools

By Zoë Strickland, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, February 11, 2021

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Districts must submit COVID safety plans for approval and acceptance before being given the green light

A change in state guidance coupled with decreased virus case rates means that Sonoma County schools serving kids in grades TK-6 grade could potentially reopen, following district-specific approval from local and state health officials.

In a joint announcement Wednesday afternoon, the county of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) announced that Sonoma County has reached an adjusted daily virus case rate of less than 25 cases per 100,000 people for five consecutive days — which, per recent state guidance under California’s Safe Schools for All Plan, means that districts can submit their COVID-19 Safety Plan to state and local health officials for review and approval to reopen for in-person instructions.

“We’re encouraged by the revised state guidance and want to acknowledge this important milestone in our collective effort to reduce the case rate and get our children back in the classroom,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a statement. “The review process for reopening is comprehensive and takes time, but we will be working diligently to complete these reviews as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with education officials to ensure that teachers, students, and families have the confidence to reopen safely when they do return to in-person learning.”

While the county is still in the purple tier, schools serving any grade level will be able to reopen once the county moves to the red tier for five consecutive days. In order to move to the red tier, county case rates must be below 7 per 100,000 people. As of Feb. 9, its daily case rate was 21.2 per 100,000 people.

“Thanks to our community’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus, schools are a step closer in a multi-step process toward reopening,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County superintendent of schools in a statement. “Schools and school districts have been working hard to prepare their campuses for reopening and must now complete the COVID-19 Safety Plans newly required by the state. We are working closely with the county health department to help schools complete and have these plans approved.”

According to Herrington, the safety plan review process could take several weeks to finalize.

According to the county’s press release, the safety plans must be posted online for at least five consecutive days prior to reopening. The new safety plan review process only applies to schools that have not reopened under the waiver process, although all schools are required to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan posted online if they have reopened. County health officials will prioritize review of COVID-19 Safety Plans for schools serving TK-6 grade levels that seek to reopen in the purple tier.

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at sonomawest.com