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Some Bay Area schools not ready for return to classroom

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) – Although improving COVID-19 infection numbers has the state clearing the way for some counties to resume in-person learning, it doesn’t mean they will.

In the South Bay, Santa Clara County’s largest school district is waiting for further improvement in case numbers and more vaccines.

San Jose Unified School District today announced it is moving ahead with a very limited return to the classroom for kids struggling with distance learning, but there won’t be any significant in-person learning until the county is back into the orange tier of the state’s re-opening guidelines.

Short of a state mandate or new legislation, the South Bay’s largest school district is sticking with a re-opening plan based on two criteria, says the district’s Jennifer Maddox.

“For us, we have agreement currently with our labor groups to open when Santa Clara County is in the orange tier. Or when all of our teachers have the opportunity to have the full COVID-19 vaccine.”

Lacking both criteria, for now, the district announced Wednesday that teachers have agreed to support limited in-person cohorts similar to a program already underway in the Campbell Union School District, which permits small groups of students with an adult in the room to help with distance learning,” San Jose Unified School District Jennifer Maddox said.

Fueling the push to reopen schools is growing evidence that many kids are indeed falling behind with distance learning.

“Most of our students are doing well. We do have some that distance is not really working for them, and so we want to be able to provide better support for them which we plan to do in person.”

State guidelines say counties that had fewer than 25 new COVID infections for every 100,000 residents can safely reopen.

But even as infection rates are trending downward, with 2 million residents and a rolling average of 667 new cases per day, Santa Clara County may be weeks away from leaving the purple tier.

“The reason we picked the orange tier, is the orange tier is the place which we feel like things are open in the community at a level which is similar to what the school classroom setting would be like.”

Other roadblocks to reopening schools will be formalizing agreements with teachers and labor groups to say nothing about what kind of funding the state will commit toward a return to the classroom.

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