By Kiet Do

SAN CARLOS (KPIX 5) — While other San Francisco Bay Area school districts remain in the planning phase, the San Carlos Unified School District opened the doors of its schools Monday to transitional kindergarten and first-grade students.

The district held orientation classes for those younger grades ahead of the first day of in-person instruction set to be held Monday, March 1.

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Children arrived to Brittan Acres Elementary to find teachers’ names on signs planted on the front lawn. From there, the students learned about their designated school entrance, proper hallway and line etiquette, and check-in procedures.

Once inside, they were taken through a typical day, taught how to wear a mask and wash their hands, how to use the restroom and briefed on the new playground rules.

The students also got a glimpse of their new outdoor classrooms, that give teachers the option to move outside for more ventilation.

San Carlos is opting for a “phased–in hybrid” model of reopening, where the students will initially attend regular distance learning classes in the morning, but come to campus two afternoons a week. The district will add more in person classes over time, if conditions improve.

Brittan Acres Elementary Principal Suzanne Fast said in-person classes will feature lessons that are difficult to teach remotely.

“We’re really going to focus a lot on social/emotional learning type activities. But they also might be working on some core instruction that’s harder to teach over distance learning, like writing,” explained Fast.

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At Brittan Acres, about 60% of the teachers have received at least one vaccine shot, in accordance with San Mateo County’s priority list.

Employees who work directly with students will receive the vaccine first, followed by employees who work in-person but not directly with students. The third priority group is for education workers who are working remotely, according to San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee.

San Carlos School District Superintendent Michelle Harmeier said the administration is mindful of the hardship the phased-in approach may have on working parents.

“Because it is a middle of the day transition. So we were very aware that that may be a challenge, but at the same time it was a way for us to get back sooner,” said Harmeier.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s a start,” said parent Brie Jennings. “It’s hard when I’m working and I’m trying to fit it in. But it’s worth it for them to be with their friends for a little bit. Hopefully we’ll be at point where they’re in for bigger chunks of time.”

Orientations for second and third grades will begin the week of March 1, while fourth and fifth grades are scheduled for the week of March 15.

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The district will address sixth through eighth grades when the county does move into the red tier or 7 or fewer cases per 100,000 people under state requirements.