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MARIN TEAM TESTS VIRUS SAFEGUARDS FOR SCHOOLS
MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL by Keri Brenner
A team of specialists has started testing ways for Marin County school campuses to reopen with anti-virus protocols.
Ken Lippi, assistant superintendent for the Marin County Office of Education, said some staffers have returned to work at the office headquarters in San Rafael. Officials are also planning a “pilot reopening” at three schools on Monday, Lippi said. “We’re doing this in phases,” he said.
Mike Grant, a member of the safety team, detailed its work for trustees on the Marin County Board of Education during their online meeting on Tuesday.
“Our biggest concern is that when (the students) all see each other, they will want to hug,” said Katy Foster, co-principal at Marin’s Community School, a small program for grades seven to 12. “Our students really want to come back.”
Dr. Curtis Robinson, president of the board of trustees, said he was impressed with the preparations and pilot testing, but he questioned the timing for the rest of Marin schools for the fall.
We’ll track and trace contacts if they were closer than 6 feet to the (infected) person, without a mask, for longer than 10 minutes,” Grant said. “Only those people will be asked to quarantine for 14 days.
By using very specific measures, the schools or offices can avoid having to quarantine an entire building, or a full classroom — as school officials initially thought was necessary months ago at the beginning of the outbreak.
The team is also requiring workers at the county education office to disinfect and wipe down all desks, computers and other office equipment after each shift. Similarly, workers are only allowed to use the restroom closest to their office in order to contain any potential virus spread on high-touch surfaces.
“My biggest concern is that we may be no further along (with COVID-19 restrictions) in three months,” Robinson said.
Besides the sanitation stations, other measures put in place include a requirement that staffers wear masks at all times unless working alone in an office.
In addition, the team has installed a QR code mobile phone sign-in system that tracks everyone who comes in or out. Staffers must fill out a questionnaire to confirm they have no coronavirus symptoms, such as fever or cough. Anyone with symptoms is required to stay home.
With the QR code, if someone comes to work and is asymptomatic, but later becomes infected, the staff will be able to track all his or her contacts while working inside the site. Coronavirus can be contagious for several days before symptoms appear.
“We have health and safety stations at each classroom,” Grant said. “The first thing people do when they come in is wash their hands for 20 seconds.”
Lippi said he expects the full staff at the county education office to be back by June 1. The three pilot test schools will start with small groups of students who stay together with the same teachers, he said.
The test campuses are Marin’s Community School in San Rafael, San Jose Middle School in Novato and Marindale School in San Rafael.
Local COVID-19 public health orders so far have not addressed schools, although they have given guidance to child care centers. The guidance for those centers is to keep classes to no more than 12 kids who stay together — also called a “stable cohort” — and with the same teachers every day.
Other protocols could include staggered start times and daily temperature checks.
A decision on the safest method for bus transportation to schools is pending. Some Marin school bus services said they are limiting trips to eight student riders per bus to maintain social distancing — a likely scheduling and cost issue if extra runs are needed, according to school officials.
Robinson said he expects the schools will consider a range of options, including a “hybrid” model of half-day school attendance. The rest of the day would be spent at home with remote learning tools.