Reopening local public school districts for in-person learning is still a long way off, but Coastside district leaders are kickstarting the process to be ready to open their doors eventually.

At Cabrillo Unified School District, Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said the wheels are in motion to work through its reopening committee to distribute surveys and consult with teachers unions. The first priority is to consider in-person learning for some younger students and for those who need targeted support. But as of now, there is no rush to bring most students back.

“We’re taking baby steps toward a waiver,” McPhetridge said.

According to McPhetridge, some members of CUSD’s staff have tested positive for COVID-19, so the district is familiar with the reporting and contact tracing process and is working closely with the San Mateo County Health Department and office of education. McPhetridge said waiver discussions are set to happen at the Oct. 8 and future board meetings, where a potential date may be established.

On the South Coast, Superintendent Amy Wooliever is also being cautious. After pushing the restart button on the school year following the

CZU August Lightning Complex fire that displaced nearly all of the South Coast, the district’s remote learning centers had to be moved inside because of poor air quality. Then, after a few additional COVID-19 cases were reported in the South Coast, the centers were shut down temporarily.

Although she had hoped to pursue a waiver to reopen kindergarten classes, Wooliever announced at the meeting that she would slow down the timeline because of uncertainty about the virus.

LHPUSD parents, teachers and community members expressed concern about students and families who have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfire evacuations. They worried that families without consistent access to the internet or supervision for young kids may have no choice but to send their kids back, regardless of how comfortable they are.

“If given the choice, (some families) will probably send their children,” said Arlae Alston, Puente’s family engagement project manager. “But is that really a choice?”

Despite the many challenges South Coast students have had to face this year, Wooliever said that nearly all middle and high school students logged on for their first day back. For those who aren’t connecting at both CUSD and LHPUSD, outreach staff is working to check in with siblings or cousins, even to just establish a connection.

“I think this is a chance for everyone to think about

how to deliver education in a new way,” LHPUSD board President Mary Windram said.

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