Saturday, 04 December 2021

Mendocino County schools stop COVID-19 at the door

Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins. Courtesy photo.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — On Friday, Oct. 8, the Mendocino County Office of Education and Mendocino County Public Health Department hosted a meeting of local K-12 educators where Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren complimented educators, saying that schools have effectively “stopped COVID at the door.”

As education and public health leaders reviewed COVID transmission data, they noted that of the 33 COVID cases identified in schools, all were attributable to community spread — not transmission at school.

“This is important because people need to know schools are safe for students and staff,” said Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins.

She explained that since the beginning of the current school year, the goal of the California Department of Education, or CDE, has been to assure that students have access to safe, full in-person instruction.

During the 2020-21 school year, state education and health officials mandated at least six feet of distancing between students, requiring schools to implement a hybrid model where only half of students were allowed on campus at any given time.

When COVID transmission rates did not increase, the minimum distance between students was reduced to four feet. Again, thanks to risk-mitigation strategies such as vaccines, screening, quarantines, masks and hand-washing, transmission rates did not increase.

This school year, there is no minimum physical distancing requirement, and again, transmission rates have not increased. Therefore, on Nov. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom has agreed to revisit the mask requirement in schools.

Hutchins said, “No one expects the governor to remove the mask mandate immediately, but he is looking at the data and assessing the options. Even after events such as Homecoming at some of our biggest schools, we haven’t seen an uptick in cases. We appear to be transitioning from a world in the midst of a pandemic to a world where COVID-19 is endemic. As more and more people are vaccinated, the hope is that we will be able to return to life without masks, as long as we keep washing our hands and staying home when we’re sick.”

Hutchins hopes people will recognize how safe schools are and consider applying for the many positions currently available. As of Oct. 11, there were almost 200 education-related vacancies in Mendocino County.

“If you’re looking for work, whether you have a high school diploma, a college degree, or a teaching credential, there are jobs available. Go to www.edjoin.org for details,” she said.

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