MILL VALLEY (CBS SF) — While public Schools in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose remain in distance learning, Marin County is accelerating its reopenings even for high schools.
Tamalpais High school is one of several that will welcome back students and teachers for in-person learning this week.READ MORE: COVID Reopening: San Jose Sharks Welcoming Fans Back At SAP Center April 26; Testing Or Vaccination Required
Marin County is one of 2 in the Bay Area that have entered the Red Tier, as more schools reopen, without all staff being vaccinated.
Outdoor tents have been set up for more space as thousands of high school students return to the classroom.
Some 90% of schools in Marin County will be open for in-person learning in the days ahead.
“I’m just excited to be back as things start to get back to normal,” said Beyllah Oliveras.
“I never thought my high school experience would be on the computer,” said San Rafael High freshman Natalia Salazar. “I’m looking forward to seeing the campus I haven’t seen it before.”
On Monday, ninth and tenth graders returned to San Rafael High. Next Monday, grades 11 and 12 will join them. Principal Glenn Dennis told KPIX about half his student body decided to do in-person learning, so their first lesson is all about how to be here safely.
“It’s gonna be really serious. This is why we’re spending an entire day going over this with the students,” said Dennis.
Tuesday morning Redwood High will join the list of schools to open for in person learning. Isabel Ames, a senior says, “It feels like we are coming back from summer finally.”
“Now we have 6 months of data to look at and actually see that when we actually use social distancing, masking and keep the numbers low, it is safe to come back,” says 8th grade teacher Julie Cassel.
The 30-point safety plan being used creates multiple layers of safety protocols. It includes better ventilation systems, a QR code safety screen to enter the school, and another to use the bathroom. Mask wearing is mandated and common touch points like lockers are not being used.
It won’t look the same in many ways, but it is a step in the right direction.
“I’m just really hopeful. It’s been a very challenging year for the students in the faculty and the families,” said Dennis. “It just feels really good that we’re reopening schools. Things are to returning to some level of normalcy.”READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Are You Eligible For A Plus-Up Payment?
“At some point we need to recognize teachers are being asked to take a risk,” said Morgan Agnew, a teacher at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. “Everyone who’s going into the building is being asked to take a risk, and we need to acknowledge that and not act like it’s 100% safe.”
Late Monday afternoon, a group of Marin County teachers gathered outside Kent Middle School with what they would like to see as schools fully reopen. That includes demands that are already being offered by school districts such as vaccinations for teachers, social distancing, stable cohorts and distance learning options.
“A lot of it is similar but what we’re wanting to do though is to make sure it continues into next year,” said Tara Costello, a special education teacher.
Marin County Superintendent Mary Jane Burke is optimistic that all schools will be open to some type of in-person learning by the middle of this month and a full return to school is not too far behind.
“Once we are vaccinated my hope is that all of the students will be back in person full time by the end of the school year so when we start the next school year, we will be ready to go,” said Burke.
According to the Marin County Department of Education, some schools have been open for in-person instruction for 106 days so far. That’s equivalent to more than 1.1 million “student days.”
There have been zero suspected cases of in-school transmission from student to adult, while there are two from adult to student suspected cases.
“That sounds like a lot, but you have to keep in mind, most of that is elementary school and that doesn’t necessarily apply at the high school level where our students are basically physiologically adults, with the judgement of teenagers,” said Agnew.
“We’re gonna have a small class but I think it will be better than staying at home and a better opportunity to learn too,” said Redwood High School student Ashley Martin.
If a teacher has health issues, that educator has options to not return to class.
“If that teacher has a note from their medical professional that says this person cannot be in a classroom in front of students then there’s no conversation,” Agnew said. “The district is legally required to accommodate them the same as they would for any other medical need. They’re required to make reasonable accommodation.”
By the second week of March, all 17 high schools in the Tamalpais Union, San Rafael, Novato, and Shoreline districts will reopen for some in-person learning.MORE NEWS: Shooting In Vallejo Neighborhood Sends 2 Victims To Hospital
Marin school officials say 25% of staff have been offered vaccines so far. The goal is to fully vaccinate teachers by April, with vaccine superpods starting this week at Marin County Fairgrounds.