SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – Some schools in Marin County show a possible path to reopen in-person learning safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city of San Rafael has a unique challenge.  It has to transport children from one of the most underserved parts of the city to schools that have started to re-open.

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The city started busing the youngest students last week.

It’s not an easy task, but school officials think they can do it safely, even as Marin County has moved into a more restrictive tier.

Students arrive for in-person classes at Venetia Valley School in San Rafael on November 18, 2020. (CBS)

Students arrive for in-person classes at Venetia Valley School in San Rafael on November 18, 2020. (CBS)

Each day, more than 300 children from parts of San Rafael are bused into schools like Venitia Valley, which have more space, but are too far from their homes.

“We had to prioritize and provide this service to students and families that needed it the most,” said San Rafael City Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

“We are in Marin, so people think we’re a lot wealthier than we are. But 60, 65% of our kids are on free or reduced lunch,” said Superintendent of San Rafael City Schools Jim Hogeboom.

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Many of the schools in the underserved Canal Area are at full capacity.  Part of the challenge is providing in-person learning, while assuring parents of their safety.

“They’re pretty strict because I really noticed the behavior of my own son when he’s passes by, he pauses and lets others go,” said Heather Crossen, whose son now attends school in-person at Venitia Valley School.

As soon as the children are dropped off, drivers disinfect the seats inside the bus.

Right now, the district has 11 bus routes with children separated into AM and PM cohorts, to minimize mixing.

So far, there have been 48 in-person school days in Marin County. Health officials released new numbers, showing that’s the equivalent of 234,000 days with an average of close to 7,000 students attending per day. The county’s Department of Health and Human Services says there are zero suspected in-school transmissions of COVID-19.

“That’s a pretty powerful statistic. When people say to me, ‘How can you open?’ when you have the country revisiting super high cases. But at least in schools so far, it’s been going really, really well, and I think that’s because we have those safety procedures in place,” said Hogeboom.

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“We feel like schools are, in many cases, the safest place to be,” said Marcucci.