Nancy Magee

Nancy Magee

In an unprecedented move to protect the health of students and slow the spread of coronavirus, San Mateo County schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, said Bay Area health and education officials.

San Mateo County Superintendent Nancy Magee, in collaboration with colleagues from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, announced Tuesday, April 7, campuses will stay shuttered through the end of the spring semester.

The decision confirms suspicions widely shared for weeks by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Superintendent Tony Thurmond, who repeatedly encouraged students, parents and school community members to prepare for a sustained stretch of remote learning. Some local systems, like the Sequoia Union High School, Redwood City Elementary School and San Mateo County Community College districts already shuttered campuses.

The order should not be interpreted as a declaration of ending classes for the year, said Magee, who noted online classes and remote learning arrangements will remain in place until the final day of the school calendar.

“We find ourselves in an urgent public health crisis. Schools must be responsive to the needs of the greater community. By continuing to provide instruction to students at home, we can both support learning and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” she said in a prepared statement.

She balanced that statement by noting the decision came after extensive collaboration with county Health Officer Scott Morrow, who will also determine when schools will be open again.

For his part, Morrow said work will continue alongside regional educational officials to determine next steps.

“The decision to further extend closures is critical for maintaining social distancing and protecting the health and safety of all San Mateo County and Bay Area residents,” he said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work closely with school leaders and adjust our orders and guidance once the data reflects that we’ve significantly stemmed the spread of COVID-19.”

The order arrives the day that San Mateo County reported its highest daily death toll associated with the disease, with eight new deaths confirmed overnight, pushing the county’s deaths to 21. Total case counts hit 589, up only marginally from the day prior.

County Manager Mike Callagy shared limited information regarding the deaths, deferring to health officials who prefer not to disclose where the deceased lived. Instead, he said it is safer to assume the virus is everywhere and threatens the health of the entire community.

COVID-19 is also a hazard to the county’s budget, said Callagy, who acknowledged the extensive fiscal damage caused by the spread of the virus. Some state and federal funding can help offset the financial challenges, but the loss of regional tax income will be substantial, he said.

“We are still trying to understand the cost and all the ramifications of almost the entire economy and society coming to a halt,” he said.

An outsize portion of the fiscal challenges will be felt by the county’s health department, said Callagy, who noted the agency was struggling financially before the global pandemic struck. Clinics which generated revenue are now closed and services previously on the chopping block to limit costs must now be preserved to provide care, he said.

Callagy suggested more information about the budget implications will be available toward the end of the week, while acknowledging the substantial challenges on the horizon.

“Clearly, this will have a major impact,” he said.

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(1) comment

Craig

So to save society, we had to prevent Aragon High School from presenting "Shakespeare in Love," while at the same time multiple CA and non-CA jurisdictions let violent criminal of out jails/prisons because they are diabetic.

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