Purple tier is back again

Contra Costa County enters is second shelter-in-black order, pushing back the opening of school campuses


Photo courtesy of San Ramon Valley Unified School District

Over the past two months, the number of COVID-19 cases has drastically increased in San Ramon, Danville and Alamo, the three cities part of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

Jaida Baker and Jett Gold, Staff Writers

Not much has changed in nine months.

All Bay Area counties once again entered a stay-at-home order on Friday, bringing students and staff back to square one, when the county first initiated on March 19 a shelter-in-place order to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Although Contra Costa County implemented the state’s stay-at-home order early on Dec. 6, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has now officially ordered residents to only leave home for essential activities because the number or coronavirus cases has skyrocketed. The new stay-at-home order extends to Jan. 4.

Gov. Newsom announced on Nov. 21 a statewide curfew from 10 p.m to 5 a.m, signaling the start of another lockdown. Currently, 55 of the state’s 58 counties are in the most restrictive purple tier.

Unfortunately, this means that Cal High and the rest of San Ramon Valley Unified School District campuses will not be opening on Jan. 5 in a hybrid model as planned. The district’s Board of Education approved at its Tuesday meeting to postpone students’ return to campus until the county returns to the less restrictive red tier.

“As we move to [the] red tier we can move immediately toward in-person hybrid learning,” Superintendent Dr. John Malloy said at the school board meeting.

In addition to safety aspects that come with reopening Cal High, assistant principal Tucker Farrar is concerned about helping students who are struggling to stay afloat in their classes.

“It’s scary because COVID-19 is an ominous reality,” Farrar said. “There’s a lot of students that are struggling academically and socially.”

Cal is a very densely populated school with nearly 3,000 students and well over 100 staff members. This factor plays a big role in the reopening of the school. Even if only about 250 of these students are on campus on one day, which is expected once campus opens to hybrid learning, the virus can still spread quickly.

The district saw this at Del Amigo High in Danville when a total of eight students and teachers contracted COVID-19 after an ill student came to campus last month. Special day students have been back on some school campuses like the district’s alternative high school since Nov. 17.

Back in March, Cal and other district schools were expecting to shut down for a three-week period, with students coming back to campus after spring break. This return was delayed further because of the exponential rise in COVID cases, sending the vast majority of California into lockdown for the remainder of last school year.

Senior Ken Vejby initially liked the idea of a lockdown, which he thought would mean extended breaks and homeschooling. But Vejby certainly didn’t anticipate lockdown restrictions carrying into 2021.

“I was sitting playing video games with my friends,” Vejby said. “We were talking about how we would get an extra week of spring break. It was an initial joy, but reality set in as to how long this was going to last.”

But Vejby is mostly happy with the way that California has handled COVID-19.

“As all regulations come, I know there’s been a lot of disdain,” Vejby said. “Overall, in the historical lens, [California] has done a much better job than many other states.”

Freshman Julian Widmer found staying at home made him feel disconnected from social activities and prevented him from going out. That being said, he is grateful to have had extra free time, which allows him to practice and improve on new skills, as well as allot time to pursue his goals while studying from the comfort of his home.

“I like the idea of being able to go back to our normal lives, but the health of the people is important as well,” Widmer said. “I would personally put harsher restrictions and COVID guidelines, but for a shorter period of time.”

The new stay-at-home order also means that many local businesses face another period of uncertainty, just as they did when lockdown first began in mid-March.

“The biggest concern is the inconsistency of individual businesses being shut down in different sections at random,” said Keva Dodd, owner of Whim House, a home decor and gift store in Danville. 

Dodd expressed concerns about how the continuous COVID crisis has put a huge strain on the local community.

California has come full circle since March, leaving Cal students and all Contra Costa County residents right back where they started.