In-Person Classes to Begin in August
By Steven D. Herrington, PhD
The past 18 months have been an unprecedented and difficult time for our education community. Teachers had to leave their classrooms behind and quickly learn how to use Zoom. Parents had to serve as their students’ part-time teachers and Internet experts, while the ongoing burden of the pandemic greatly affected family life.
I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who assisted students the best they could. And I’d also like to acknowledge the many people in our community who suffered and were deeply affected by the pandemic. It goes without saying that all of us in education look forward to the start of the new school year. The number one priority of our entire school community will be to work hard to support students’ social and emotional needs.
We are excited to reconnect with students! Don’t worry if you think your student might have fallen behind. Children are incredibly resilient, and teachers are prepared to meet each student where they are and build on their strengths. You can help by talking to your teacher about your children’s strengths and areas where they might need help.
There is plenty of good news from health experts that will reassure parents and school staff that schools are healthy places to be. We now have high vaccination rates in our county, a better understanding of how the virus spreads, and improved air ventilation in most schools. In addition, scientific research has shown that children tend to not easily transmit the virus between each other— especially when precautions like masking are in place. According to new health guidelines released by the California Department of Public Health for the 2021–22 school year, all students will need to wear masks indoors at the beginning of the year. The main reason for this is to reduce the need for social distancing and hybrid schedules, thereby helping all schools return to full-time, in-person learning. Wearing masks will also help reduce the need for children to stay home and quarantine if they are exposed to the virus. No later than November 1, the state plans to reassess this requirement, taking into account the latest vaccination and virus rates.
It’s extremely important that parents and educators pay close attention to students’ well-being after a school year that included thousands of hours of screen time, limited social interaction with classmates and friends, and strong emotions about being isolated. To meet the demands of students’ social and emotional needs, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) has increased its team of mental health counselors to support children and school staff countywide. If you feel your child needs support, visit scoe.org/traumahelp, or talk to your teacher or school mental health counselor.
Vaccination is vitally important for our community’s health and can help keep everyone safe. If your child is age-eligible (12 years and older) and hasn’t yet been vaccinated, learn more about the safety and benefits of vaccination with up-to-date information at scoe.org/vaccines.
Over the summer, SCOE has worked closely with local school leaders and teachers to prepare them for a safe return to full-time, in-person instruction that is focused on reconnection to the classroom, restoring a joy of learning, and addressing unmet emotional and academic needs. All of us in the education community look forward to teaching children in-person again and greatly appreciate the time and sacrifice that parents have made during the past school year.
Steven D. Herrington, PhD, is the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools.