San Jose Unified schools to continue distance learning through December

Citing health and safety concerns over COVID-19, San Jose Unified School District officials announced Wednesday that distance learning would continue for students through December 31. 

The announcement comes after Santa Clara County moved into the state's red tier last week, which means if they remain at that level for 14 days, they could technically be allowed to reopen K-12 schools for in-person instruction. The district has now decided otherwise. 

“We believe our schools should be a reflection of our community,” said Nancy Albarrán, school superintendent. “While we believe in-person instruction is the best option for our students, we cannot ignore the data on viral transmission in Santa Clara County and potentially compromise the health and safety of our students, families, and staff by bringing students back at this time.”

The school district said 57% of the county's novel coronavirus cases are attributed to an unknown origin and that community spread continues to be significant, despite overall progress in slowing the virus spread. 

In addition, the district pointed to statistics that show San Jose has a higher COVID-19 case count than other cities in Santa Clara County. As of Wednesday, the county recorded 19,760 cases of the disease and 293 deaths. 

The district said they hope to rely on new and enhanced testing requirements by the county on private health care providers in order for them to reopen safely.

The requirements for large health care providers are designed to make testing more easily available and without delay to residents. Per the order, providers including Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation among others, would be subject to fines for noncompliance. 

“Today’s enhanced testing order is a positive step towards being ready to safely reopen our schools," Katie Rodriguez, a registered nurse and manager of Health and Family Support Programs. 

The district said a survey of parents, students and employees was factored in to their decision to stick with distance learning for the remainder of 2020.