SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Officials with eight Bay Area counties announced Wednesday that the current school closure due to COVID-19 would be extended through May 1.

The initial announcement focused on Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

“Seven Bay Area county health officers, in collaboration with their six county superintendents of schools have made a unified, regional decision to extend school closures and student dismissals from regular school attendance through May 1, 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible,” the joint statement issued by the Santa Clara County Office of Education read.

“The safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the community are the highest priorities of all schools and districts in these six counties,” the statement went on to say.

Mary Jane Burke, the Marin County Superintendent of Schools says the original plan was to open schools after spring break. But after a conference call with Public Health Departments, the recommendation was to close Bay Area schools at least until May.

The districts issued a press release late Wednesday morning in addition to notifying families by text message, email and robocall.

The following counties and school districts initially announced the extended closure:

  • Alameda County Office of Education
  • Contra Costa County Office of Education
  • Marin County Office of Education
  • San Francisco Unified School District
  • San Mateo County Office of Education
  • Santa Clara County Office of Education

Napa and Sonoma counties joined the announced closure through May 1 a short time later. Schools in Solano County are currently still scheduled to reopen on April 20.

“The safety and wellness of our students, school personnel, and the community are our highest priority right now,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews in a statement issued by the SFUSD.

“We understand public schools are an essential part of our greater community and we need to work together during this time to take care of each other,” SF Board of Education President Mark Sanchez. “This is a time to make short term sacrifices and set the right example for our young people.”

“We will continue to take all necessary steps to prepare schools for reopening,” said Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan. “Meanwhile, it is absolutely crucial that we work together to slow the spread of (coronavirus), by adhering to the shelter-in-place orders and continuing to support learning at home.”

Some school facilities remain open to staff for the purposes of performing tasks deemed essential by the school district and county offices of education, the press release said. Education is continuing through flexible learning being made available for many students online.

The joint release also stated that free meals would continue to be provided and, where possible, childcare may be arranged.

Additional information can be found at respective school district websites.

Parents already feared their kids wouldn’t be going back to school anytime soon, but hearing the official news of closures until May means the juggling act to be parents and home teachers will last a lot longer than hoped.

“I have 3 different kids with 3 different ages and abilities and I’m supposed to be teaching them 3 different things and that’s a lot on my plate,” said Christina Peppers.

Peppers’ first grader just finished up day six of distance learning. The school does a combination of live and taped classes and parents say their kids look forward to connecting with their teachers and classmates everyday.

While the Zoom classes have helped, many parents say they’ve had to lower their expectations for what their kids will learn for the rest of the school year, especially as many parents try to juggle their jobs as well. Nicole Johnson says, “My computer is next to Axel’s computer and I’m trying to do the best I can to keep up with my work but making sure he gets his assignments done.”

But as difficult as the juggling act may be for parents, LaBarbara, who is also a pediatrician, feels keeping the kids at home is a good way to fight the pandemic.

“We really have the opportunity to really change the course of how this virus is going to hit our communities and I think this is the right thing,” she added.

Superintendent Burke says they do hold conference calls every week with Health Department Officials and if there is significant progress in getting COVID-19 under control, they will revisit this issue.

KPIX 5’s Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.

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