Schools to close
Coastside schools will close their campuses to students beginning on Monday. Review file photo

UPDATED 1 p.m.: Schools across the Coastside and the Bay Area were either closed or preparing to dismiss students on Monday amid a wave of cancellations aimed at stemming the spread of novel coronavirus. Also: The San Mateo County Health Officer banned most gatherings of 250 or more people.

Cabrillo Unified School District announced earlier in the day that it would close all in-person classes to students from March 16 to March 27. An hour later, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District announced in a prepared release that it and every district in the county would be ordered on Friday by county health authorities to shutter facilities until April 3.

That order came at 1 p.m. on Friday, shortly after Health Officer Scott Morrow banned most gatherings of more than 250 people in the county. Some gatherings will be allowed, including those at houses of worship, airports and hotels. The decree comes as 20 of the Bay Area's 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in San Mateo County.

There were unconfirmed reports that Santa Clara County would issue a similar order today.  

Meanwhile, Half Moon Bay city officials said that among their plans were to ban the public from City Hall and to cancel or postpone all city-sponsored events. City staff would continue to work through the crisis.

The extraordinary actions within schools to limit the spread of the coronavirus come after ongoing meetings between school superintendents throughout the county. It also follows Gov. Gavin Newsom's plea to limit non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people.

Cabrillo Unified Superintendent Sean McPhetridge sent a letter in English and Spanish to the school community on Friday. Teachers were to convene on Monday and Tuesday to plan for remote learning possibilities for students whose education would continue online or through packets of information delivered in some way. Remote learning was expected to begin on Wednesday, March 18.

The Half Moon Bay High School prom and school musical are cancelled, at least for now, and all spring sports have been suspended, McPhetridge said.

For many local school systems, including Cabrillo, the campus closures would really last another week as their planned spring break runs from April 6 through April 10.

McPhetridge said the district's staff would continue to work. Janitors would be asked to give classrooms and other facilities a "deep cleaning." In addition, food service personnel will likely continue to make meals available for kids with food insecurity issues. He said there could be a couple of school sites for food pick up. Teachers may ultimately work from home as they coordinate their instruction with students.

McPhetridge said the decision was made in consultation with leaders in other districts and became likely when school chiefs in San Francisco and other jurisdictions announced school closures.

Special education students would still receive individualized learning. Remote learning does not necessarily mean online learning but could include assignments students can do at home. Many would not require a computer, McPhetridge said.

The superintendent acknowledged that the extraordinary closure would inconvenience many parents, but said given the public health emergency the schools were in no position to provide daycare.

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