The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Sonoma County schools reopen as soon as March

    Some elementary students are returning to in-person classes with new safety protocols in place. 

    Some elementary students are returning to in-person classes with new safety protocols in place. 

    After almost a year without in-person instruction in Sonoma County, schools are about to re-open. Districts like Santa Rosa City Schools are on track to partially re-open for in-person instruction on March 1. 

    At the beginning of this year, the California Department of Public Health released new guidelines for the return to in-person instruction in schools. Under these guidelines, schools throughout California are allowed to re-open once the case rate in their respective counties reaches less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents. Neighboring Marin County currently has schools open for in-person and hybrid instructions, while Sonoma County is almost ready. 

    As of Feb. 9, Sonoma County’s case rate reached below this threshold. In order for schools serving transitional-kindergarten through 6th grade to re-open, all they have to do is complete a COVID-19 safety plan which will be approved by the county health department. 

    As of right now, over 15 school districts in Sonoma County, including the Santa Rosa City Schools, have submitted their safety plans, and plan to open on March 1st.

    The Santa Rosa City Schools district encompasses 25 schools, totaling over 15,000 students from transitional kindergarten through 12th grade. 

    It is worth noting that the upcoming return to in-person instruction does not apply to students in middle or high schools in Sonoma County. 

    Sonoma County remains in the purple tier, the most restrictive tier under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, and those in grades higher than kindergarten through sixth will have to wait until Sonoma County moves into the red tier for at least five consecutive days, in order to return to in-person instruction. 

    The reality of virtual instruction since last year has not only impacted students in Sonoma County schools, it has also impacted Sonoma State students in the School of Education. Various classes in this school require that students complete observation hours in a classroom, or student teaching in local schools. With virtual instruction, these opportunities have begun to dwindle. 

    Casey Ditzhazy, a current undergraduate student at SSU studying Early Childhood Education, is currently enrolled in one of these courses.  She is currently taking EDEC 237, Early Childhood Curriculum with Field Experience, which requires students to complete classroom observation hours.

    Prior to COVID-19 this observation would be completed by students going into local schools to observe teachers in the classroom and interact with students. However, during virtual instruction, students are completing their observation by watching clips from research databases, which show classroom operations.

    Ditzhazy says that this form of observation, “…doesn’t compare to the real experience,” and added, “Education majors look forward to being in the classroom, so it’s disappointing to not have that same experience.”

    Ditzhazy said that her professors have not brought up the reopening of schools in Sonoma County, or how the re-opening will impact those completing observation hours. 

    When asked if she would like to complete her observation in-person and in a classroom if it were possible this semester, Ditzhazy said, “I don’t know if I would, everything is still so up in the air. It’s hard to tell which plans will work and which ones won’t. For my own safety, I don’t think I would this semester.” 

    Like many others, Ditzhazy believes that teachers and child-care workers should be next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to protect their health as they return to schools. 

    On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will set aside 10% of its weekly allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine for educators starting in March, in order to improve and speed up the process of reopening public schools across the state.

    In an interview with the Sonoma County Gazette, Dr. Steve Herrington, the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools, said that the safety plan review process for Sonoma County could take weeks to complete. These safety plans must be posted online for at least five days prior to reopening. 

    These safety plans outline the precautions that will be put into place in order to keep teachers and students safe.

     Some of the precautions outlined in the safety plan submitted by Santa Rosa City Schools include: placing students into stable cohorts with fixed membership to minimize contact, health screening and physical precautions such as facial coverings and physical distancing while at school, and the testing, identification, and tracing of positive COVID-19 cases. 

    Once the safety plans of each school are approved, schools may remain open as long as Sonoma County maintains a case rate of less than 25 cases per 25,000 residents. 

    Teachers and students alike are ready to return to schools. Rochelle Anderson, a fourth grade teacher at Wright Elementary in Santa Rosa said, “I’m excited to be moving forward and getting back into the classroom in April. My students and their families have worked so hard at remote learning. We have all bonded over doing this hard thing together, so I can’t wait to physically meet them in the classroom for the first time.”

    As schools begin to open around Sonoma County, teachers and students will be able to return to some semblance of normalcy amongst the era of COVID-19. 

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