SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Officials in the South San Francisco Unified School District decided last week to continue distance learning through the foreseeable future, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in San Mateo County and the Bay Area.

The district’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted Thursday to keep schools under distance learning until cases drop to a level where San Mateo County returns to the Orange Tier under the state’s color-coded system. A previously scheduled return to hybrid learning on January 19, 2021 has been scrapped.

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“Student and staff safety are paramount in our school district,” said Superintendent Dr. Shawnterra Moore said in a statement. “It’s also one of the foundations upon which we have designed our reopening of school plan.”

Officials also cited a recent survey of more than 3,200 parents in the district, which found about 70% preferred to remain under distance learning, while only 23% wanted to transition to hybrid learning. Another 7% said they would abide by the judgment of teachers, who said in a separate survey that they decided to remain under distance learning.

“There is not a large hue and cry in our community to return to hybrid learning right now,” School Board Clerk John Baker said.

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Hybrid learning using a staggered approach for those who prefer it, along with students with high needs would only take place if the county is in the Orange Tier for two weeks, officials said.

Baker suggested the district consider other strategies to prevent learning loss and promote equity by possibly expanding summer school, extending the 2021-2022 school year for 1st through 5th graders or by offering a 5th year of high school.

In the meantime, the district said it would now expand learning hubs to support students struggling with distance learning. The district has hubs open at Sunshine Gardens Elementary, the city’s Community Learning Center and the Paradise Valley clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of North San Mateo County. Additional hubs would open pending state approval.

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As of Monday, the county remains under the Purple Tier.