Board makes right call by postponing hybrid learning

Like thousands of San Ramon Valley Unified School District community members, The Californian’s editorial board has been asking the question: Why are we going back to school?

Luckily for our safety and sanity, the district’s Board of Education postponed the return to campus for hybrid students during its Tuesday night meeting.

Campuses will no longer open until Contra Costa County has entered the red tier of California COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, specialized small groups on campus will cease activity until at least Jan. 19. 

Even though some of us will not be returning to campus on Jan. 5, the change in students’ schedules will kick in that day when the second semester begins. This is appreciated because it sets the stage for a smoother transition to hybrid learning.

We are glad that the district has decided to care about the health of its students, teachers, and parents and keep everyone at home while the county remains in the most-restrictive purple tier and the state is under a stay-at-home order.

Recent history of the district’s reopening plans has revealed that it is woefully ill-prepared to begin the process of returning kids to campus. In an interview with the Mercury News, Superintendent John Malloy said that staff at Del Amigo did not follow proper protocol when five staff and three students were infected with COVID-19 in November.

If eight people were infected at a small school, what would happen when thousands of students return to dozens of campuses?

At California High School, we have already had two reported cases, with very few people back on campus. What would have happened when hundreds of students and staff return in January?

Not only was protocol ignored, but the protocol is flawed to begin with.

Malloy said that after a student visits a school nurse, the principal of the school decides whether the student should be sent home. Why should a principal, someone who has little to no experience in public health, be allowed to decide whether someone who is potentially infected with COVID-19 can go home? Shouldn’t anyone showing symptoms of the coronavirus be sent home immediately?

The district also showed its lack of consistency during the Del Amigo incident. Dr. Malloy told Mercury News that students must wear masks in school, except for those with medical conditions that would prevent a mask from being worn.

When students and parents were choosing if they wanted to return to campus or continue learning remotely next semester, they were told masks would be required with no exceptions.

Surely the district should have told everyone about the mask exemptions beforehand?

We hope this moment of clarity in the school board’s vision serves as a microcosm of things to come, and that the two new board members will inject common-sense into their decision-making. Last night showed that our hopes may manifest.

Hopefully, a vaccine will be quickly distributed to the district community and that we can all return to campus safely. Until then, we shouldn’t use reopening as a chance to risk people’s health and safety.