With health conditions improving, vaccination availability growing and the county advancing to the less restrictive red tier, schools across the county are looking toward reopening classrooms for students.

Reopening plans for most elementary school districts have already been approved and bargaining agreements are in place at local high school districts too, setting the stage for a return to campus amid the pandemic.

County Superintendent Nancy Magee lauded the progress in a newsletter sent to school community members last week.

“With our education workforce vaccinated, more students will be back on campus with access to the critical social, emotional, and academic supports that in-person settings provide,” said Magee in the newsletter. “These connections and in-person supports are especially essential to supporting students with the most urgent learning needs.”

With an eye on accommodating those students with specialized needs, most schools have adopted a staggered system that brings back small groups or those in early grades before adding more pupils.

Such is the case in the San Carlos Elementary School District, where transitional kindergartners through first graders started the week of Monday, Feb. 22, followed by second and third graders the next, leading to fourth and fifth graders restarting the subsequent week and middle schoolers starting the week of Monday, March 15.

Superintendent Michelle Harmeier said teacher vaccination was critical for the district to bring back students while expressing hopefulness that opportunity expands for the rest of the county.

“We are happy for the protection and peace of mind the vaccine gives to our staff, and hopeful that with this availability to all educators, more districts will soon be able to reopen and serve students in person,” she said.

The start of in-person classes began in late February for Burlingame Elementary School District students as well. Meanwhile, Redwood City Elementary School District students started returning in January.

The Millbrae Elementary School District is also staggering a return for students, with an expectation that transitional kindergarten through second grade starts Tuesday, March 16, third through fifth graders the following week, sixth graders the last week of March and seventh and eighth graders starting Monday, April 12, according to the district website.

Similarly, a memorandum of understanding was reached in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District to gradually begin a return for students through March, leading to a return for middle schoolers after spring break in April.

Some students in the San Bruno Park Elementary School District are expected to return in a hybrid fashion starting the second week in March, according to the district website.

And while many schools have started or plan to soon, others are less ambitious.

In the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District, students are expected to return to campus in the red tier if teachers are vaccinated, or once the county advances to the orange tier.

The South San Francisco Unified School District plans to stay mostly reliant on online learning for the rest of the school year, but some small groups should be allowed back in the orange tier, said the district website.

The San Mateo Union High School District’s return to campus is largely dependent on the county’s tier too. Small groups of students with specialized needs and the district’s continuation program should restart after the county spends two uninterrupted weeks in the red tier, with most other students expected to be allowed back in the orange tier.

Meanwhile, the Sequoia Union High School District is expected to bring students back to the classroom Monday, April 5, according to a school board decision Wednesday, Feb. 24.

As for the San Mateo County Community College District, students are expected to continue relying primarily on online learning through the summer semester and into the fall, according to a recent board decision.

“Even though we all want to get back to our beautiful college campuses, we will do so in a thoughtful and deliberate way,” said Chancellor Michael Claire in a prepared statement. “We are optimistic that as vaccines become more widely distributed in the summer and fall we will be able to restore more in-person classes and services to students next year.”


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