Coastside and Pacifica schools are looking forward to a full reopening come fall, so long as local and state health orders allow it.

Superintendents from La Honda-Pescadero, Cabrillo United, Pacifica and Jefferson Union High school districts all confirmed this week they are planning on a 100 percent reopening later this year. Each will follow local and state health department requirements, which may require masks, distancing or other protocols. Such guidance will likely not include cohorting requirements or class size limits, allowing a full five-day-per-week schedule for all students.

After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campuses in March of 2020, most schools shifted to remote learning, which would continue into the following school year. It wasn’t until November for South Coast schools and early 2021 for most other districts that schools began reopening for some in-person classes.

Many districts created hybrid in-person schedules, with students coming to campus for classes just a few days a week to keep class sizes small and allow for regular campus cleaning. But now that the state is encouraging schools to bring students back and California is set to reopen fully June 15, administrators are getting ready to open their doors full time come fall.

“All directions coming from the state are for a full reopening, which we plan to do,” Pacifica School District Superintendent Heather Olsen said.

While each school district plans to follow state rules, it’s not yet clear what those may be. The California Department of Public Health has not yet released its updated rules for schools for the 2021-22 school year, but is expected to soon as newer information comes out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge wrote in an email to the Review that he is planning to ensure classrooms can maintain three feet of distance and expects that the state will require masks through December, but will follow whatever the latest reopening instructions are come fall.

It helps that so many have taken the vaccine locally. More than 80 percent of county adults have been fully vaccinated, and more than a third of kids 12 and older have gotten their first dose. Every local teacher has now had the opportunity to get the vaccine.

Olsen said that so far Pacifica schools have eluded any positive COVID-19 cases originating in the school. She attributes that to high vaccination rates among staff and low spread of the disease in the county.

“Plus, our return to school was very slow and deliberate,” Olsen said. “Right now, we only have half of our class. Students with symptoms are staying out of school and families are really paying attention.”

But when it comes to extracurricular activities, Olsen said she’s still not sure just what will and won’t be able to resume. A big challenge is recruiting parent volunteers. They’d also have to expand their contact tracing to be able to handle keeping track of who is where and when.

“During the summer is when we will take time to think through things like that,” Olsen said.

Sarah Wright is the deputy editor for the Review. She reports on unincorporated San Mateo County and local schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and has worked in policy and communications in Washington, D.C.

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