County introduces Rethinking Schools Task Force

The task force is considering implementing school schedules with a combination of in-person and distance learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

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(Samantha Nichols)

By Amelia Sandgren

Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke held a press conference on May 20 to discuss the Rethinking Schools Task Force, which is currently developing plans for how Marin school districts will operate in the 2020-2021 school year in light of the COVID-19 health crisis.

The task force, which is made up of seven school administrators from the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE), is holding bi-weekly meetings over teleconference calls, according to Burke. 

“The MCOE Rethinking Schools Task Force, with the intimate guidance of Public Health, have developed documents, presentations, and resources that continue to grow,” the MCOE website said.

The task force and MCOE have agreed that the district will supply essential protection equipment, such as masks and gloves, in all classrooms next year. In-person education will be conducted behind face masks worn by both students and staff, hand sanitizing stations will be readily available, and school facilities will be disinfected daily.

“Specific safety protocols including daily health screenings, temperature checks, restroom use procedures, paths of travel, outdoor recreation activities, substitute procedures, will be carefully planned, implemented, monitored and updated on a regular basis,” the MCOE said on their website.

The task force is also considering staggered times for in-person class, and reducing class sizes to 12 students per classroom, among other ideas. One plan suggests every Wednesday as a remote learning day with students attending class the rest of the school week. Rallies, spectators at sporting events, and assemblies are all unlikely to be reintroduced in the near future, according to Burke.

 The Rethinking Schools Task Force has suggested that special education students and staff may have to conduct daily temperature checks when the school year begins, although they have not decided whether the same precautions will be necessary for general education classes. 

The MCOE has not determined how the districts will fund preventative measures against COVID-19 next school year. However, Shoreline Unified, Sausalito Marin City, and San Rafael City school districts are eligible to receive a portion of $4.4 billion in relief funding granted to California by the CARES Act. The Local Control Funding Formula will determine the distribution of the funds among the school districts based on factors such as the number of English learners, low-income students, and foster youths, according to Terena Mares, deputy superintendent of the Marin County Office of Education. 

“MCOE is committed to ongoing collaboration with Marin Country schools under the guidance of our Public Health Officers to meet the challenges we face in delivering high-quality education to our students in the age of COVID-19,” the MCOE said in a press release.