By Andrea Nakano

BERKELEY (KPIX) — With the COVID-19 positivity rate topping 11% in California, parents wonder what will happen at schools where kids are set to return next week.

UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says parents should prepare for a possible disruption in education but nothing like 2020.

“In the beginning perhaps but it won’t last very long. We just have to fasten our seatbelts,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

“We think it’s a possibility now after seeing the numbers go up,” said parent Margaret Halpern.

She, like many parents, is wondering how the omicron surge will impact schools. The thought of more time off or even remote learning is top of mind.

“It means that, to be a good parent, one of us shouldn’t work and it’s hard to do at the turn of a dime,” Halpern added.

Dr. Chin-Hong is basing his theory on the way omicron has behaved in other countries. The variant makes a quick, significant surge but then cases drop off rapidly. The question is whether schools can keep up with their testing protocols.

“We rely on testing to keep kids in school now. Test to stay. If we don’t have enough tests, even though kids were given tests to bring home, it’s going to lead to more disruptions again,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

The Halperns are hoping their son will return to kindergarten next week but they also realize the pandemic is not over yet.

“It’s really hard to prepare. We just want to keep our kids safe and keep them in school. It’s hard to know how to balance the two,” Nick Halpern said.

The California Department of Education has been working to distribute at-home antigen tests. Families also can access testing sites through covid19.ca.gov