Bay Area parents, educators react to California's waiver program that would allow schools to reopen

Parents and educators react to the state's announcement k-6th grade elementary schools can reopen for in-person instruction if they receive a waiver.

ByAlix Martichoux, Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
How CA's new school waiver program affects the Bay Area
Parents and educators react to the state's announcement k-6th grade elementary schools can reopen for in-person instruction if they receive a waiver.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some Bay Area elementary schools would be allowed to reopen for in-person instruction in California under a new waiver program, health officials announced in a press conference Tuesday.

Previously, Gov. Gavin Newsom had ordered all K-12 schools to close in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list. Counties had to be off the watch list for two weeks before allowing districts to reopen.

WATCH LIST: 38 California counties where COVID-19 is getting worse

Now, K-6 elementary schools are being allowed to apply for exception waivers that would allow them to reopen classrooms.

A superintendent or equivalent school leader can apply to their local health officer for such an exception. The health officer will review the school's safety plan and evaluate local transmission rates to make a decision.

Schools in counties that have a coronavirus case rate higher than 200 cases per 100,000 residents won't be able to apply for the waiver.

By that metric, elementary schools in all nine Bay Area counties will be allowed to apply for the waiver. Of course, that doesn't mean superintendents will opt to apply for the waiver, nor does it mean local health officers would grant the exception.

Schools in Los Angeles County, on the other hand, wouldn't qualify for waivers, as the case rate there is 338.3 per 100,000 residents.

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Here are the latest case rates in Bay Area counties:

  • Alameda County: 107.7 per 100,000 residents
  • Contra Costa County: 117.7 per 100,000 residents
  • Marin County: 174.8 per 100,000 residents
  • Napa County: 145.4 per 100,000 residents
  • San Francisco County: 106.2 per 100,000 residents
  • San Mateo County: 114.8 per 100,000 residents
  • Santa Clara County: 103.5 per 100,000 residents
  • Solano County: 141.8 per 100,000 residents
  • Sonoma County: Less than 100 per 100,000 residents

See which counties around California are and aren't on the watch list in the interactive map below.

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

But several districts that technically aren't doing so just yet.

A Marin County Spokesperson told ABC7 News no Marin schools have applied for the waiver yet because a Marin-specific application will not be distributed until Friday.

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"I don't think a waiver is appropriate at this time given the rate of transmission and the number of cases," said Mill Valley parent David Howard. "You know you get a bunch of kids in a classroom with stagnant air, that's a petri dish to spread the virus."

Oakland Unified School District said it will not be seeking any waivers. San Francisco Unified said it is planning to begin the fall semester in distance learning for all students, but that it will take the waiver option into consideration as it continues to plan for a gradual hybrid of in-person learning.

"(Districts) need to be consulting with their local communities, which may include staff, labor unions, parent organizations. You want to make sure this is a close partnership in the community, and that people are supportive of this application," said California state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan.

In an emailed statement, the California Teachers Association told ABC7 News, "Educators want desperately to be back in classrooms and schools with their students doing the work they love, but there is too much at stake to ignore science, facts and safety."