NOVATO (KPIX) – Marin County approved waivers to allow more than a dozen schools to reopen Tuesday for in-person classroom learning. For many, it was a small step, but a welcome one.

The sign outside Marindale School said it all: Every day is a new beginning.

Indeed, Tuesday was a new beginning for Marindale and some other Marin County schools as they welcomed students back to the classroom.

“We’ve been working for several months for this day and we’re excited to be providing some leadership so others can say, ‘How’d they do that?’” said Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools.

The county health department approved waiver applications to allow 15 schools to reopen in-class operation. That included Cindy Evans’ eight-student special needs class operating out of San Jose Middle School, in Novato. It’s a tightly-restricted social bubble called a “cohort.”

Janelle Campbell, the Director of Special Education, says students under her care have the highest need for personal instruction.

“We recognize that some of our students have some of the most significant challenges accessing their learning through distanced means,” Campbell said.

For some students, Tuesday’s new classroom caused a bit of confusion, but Evans says her kids are surprisingly resilient.

“Even those new students were just jumping into a routine because they really like to have the structure and the routine,” she said. “So, it worked out really well so far.”

But bubbles are fragile—even social ones. Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City, was delayed at least a week due to a “questionable” result from a staff member’s COVID-19 test.

“And because there was a lack of clarity, we didn’t want to put our kids or our families at risk. So we decided to wait a week,” said Principal David Finnane.

The postponement of MLK Academy is an example of how lightly the first schools must tread as they blaze a trail for other districts to follow out of the wilderness created by the pandemic.

Meantime, Marin County is on the verge of moving to “Tier 2,” a less restrictive status. If that happens, all schools, from kindergarten to colleges, will be permitted to reopen on September 22.

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