Fourteen elementary schools in San Mateo County and two schools and three public districts in Santa Clara County have been approved to reopen for in-person instruction, some as soon as next week.
Some schools in Santa Clara County that have been given the green light to reopen are only allowed to offer face-to-face instruction to specific students, such as students with disabilities. Creekside School in San Jose, which serves students with moderate to severe autism, is on the list of approved waivers. Some of the schools approved in San Mateo County also specifically serve students with disabilities.
The Campbell Union School District, however, is allowed to fully reopen for students from transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. The district serves preschool through eighth grade students.
Santa Clara County is currently reviewing 61 waiver applications, according to an online list. The applications come mostly from individual private schools but also one public school district: the Los Altos School District. The district hopes to start by providing in-person instruction for special education and other disadvantaged students and later ramp up to transitional kindergarten to third grade.
The Primary School in East Palo Alto, Synapse School in Menlo Park and Connect Community Charter School in Redwood City are now allowed to reopen their classrooms, according to a list of approved waiver applications in San Mateo County.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 1, the San Mateo County Office of Education had received just over 20 waiver applications, said Patricia Love, executive director of strategy and communications. The office is initially reviewing the applications and then sending them to San Mateo County Health and the California Department of Public Health for review and approval.
Officials in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have urged elementary schools to apply for the waivers.
"I encourage schools to explore the waiver option in order to get children in the early elementary grades on campus," San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in a press release announcing the county's waiver process. "In-person instruction is particularly valuable to younger students whose foundational literacy and numeracy skills are paramount to long-term academic success."
The applications require schools to detail their reopening plans, including how students will be kept in small, stable groups; how classrooms and activities will be laid out to allow for physical distancing; and plans for screening, contract tracing and potential school closure if needed. Schools also must document the labor, parent and community groups that they consulted with in applying for a waiver.
The private Primary School, which serves more than 300 students in preschool through third grade, was "excited" to receive the waiver but has not yet set a reopening date, said Alison Kjeldgaard, the school's senior manager of communications and external relations.
"We will be working in close partnership with staff and families to create a plan for reopening safely," she wrote in an email.
Until last week, California schools could reopen for grades TK-6 with a waiver and for middle and high school grades only once their counties have been off of the state's monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. This system was replaced with the state's new color-coded, tiered reopening plan. Schools in the purple or "widespread" tier, including both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, can't physically reopen unless they receive a waiver from their local health department for TK-6 grades. Schools can reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the red, or "substantial" tier for at least two weeks. The state will update each county's data every Tuesday.
Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin tweeted Tuesday that he was told in a briefing with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department that if the county "stays on the same path, we could be out of the 'purple' range by September 8 (next week)."
"If (and it's an if) Santa Clara moves from 'purple' on September 8, schools COULD reopen for in-person as soon as September 22," he wrote. (Palo Alto Unified has set a start date of Oct. 12, so schools wouldn't fully reopen before then even if permitted to do so.)
California public and private schools gained permission last week to resume in-person instruction for small groups of students in need, primarily students with disabilities but also English learners and students at higher risk of further learning loss or not participating in distance learning.
View a list of districts and schools that have been approved to reopen for in-person instruction in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties here. This list will continue to be updated.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.