SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Officials with the San Jose Unified School District on Monday announced that students will have the option to return to schools for in-person learning starting in early January.

A press release issued by the district said that district officials notified San Jose Unified parents and employees last week of its plan to offer in-person instruction beginning on January 5, 2021.

The announcement noted that the return to in-person schooling would depend on Santa Clara County remaining in the orange or yellow tier on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The announcement comes after Santa Clara County’s move into the orange tier of the state’s COVID risk assessment system in mid-October. The county has started allowing indoor dining and indoor gatherings at reduced capacity in accordance with the county’s revised health order.

“We are actively planning and preparing to welcome students back for in-person instruction in January,” said SJUSD Superintendent Nancy Albarrán in the press release. “Our amazing staff are continuing to prepare our schools, including classrooms and common areas, and are developing training for our
students and staff.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the district has maintained that schools should be a reflection of the community. With Santa Clara County showing progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the latest health order has paved the way for schools to reopen with strict safety protocols in place.

“We must continue to monitor the health data in the county as we prepare for students to return to school in person,” said Katie Rodriguez, a registered nurse who is the district’s Manager of Health and Family Support Programs. “In conjunction, we are updating our COVID-19 safety protocol to ensure our rigorous safety measures mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible for our students and staff.”

Masks and six-foot physical distancing by students and staff will be required while on school campuses by San Jose Unified. While the district want to give students a chance to return to in-person instruction, officials understand some families won’t be comfortable with that change. Remote learning will remain an option for those students.

District officials will monitor the health information and guidance from local and state officials to determine if students can return to in-person instruction based on the county’s tier rating on December 30, 2020, the last ranking prior to the planned January 5 reopening. Officials said the plan for in-person instruction will be postponed if the county is in the red or purple tier on that date.

San Jose Unified is Silicon Valley’s largest public school system, serving over 28,000 students from transitional kindergarten through high school at
41 schools in the South Bay.