Coronavirus impact: Preparing for possible school closures in the South Bay as COVID-19 continues to spread

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Preparing for possible school closures as COVID-19 continues to spread
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South Bay school districts prepares for possible school closures amid novel coronavirus concerns.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It's difficult to know when it's time to start worrying if operations at your child's school will be affected by the deadly novel coronavirus, and what options you have in the case of a shutdown.

There are definitely questions to consider: Would you be able to work from home and watch the kids? How would you prevent disruption to your child's education?

Parents in Santa Clara County point to tech as an option. Many who spoke with ABC7 News said they feel it's too early to panic.

In Santa Clara County, confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped from three on Friday, to nine by Monday morning.

As the virus continues to spread around the world, there is worry about young students. These are kids whose hands-on activity can easily spread these health issues.

RELATED: Coronavirus: San Jose Unified School District monitoring for virus symptoms

Around the globe, some governments have shutdown schools.

In Silicon Valley, many parents aren't convinced that's necessary, at least not yet.

"I think we're still far away from that," San Jose resident and parent, Mario Moreno said. "I think that it's important for us to keep the panic away."

However, the County's Public Health Officer recently told reporters, it's something to consider.

"Schools should plan for absenteeism and explore options for learning at home," Dr. Sara Cody said at Friday's press conference.

In the North Bay, classes at The Healdsburg School in Sonoma County were cancelled Monday.

RELATED: Coronavirus outbreak: Sonoma County officials declare health emergency, healdsburg school closes

The school will reopen Tuesday, after officials learned a parent had been exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Head of School, Andy Davies told ABC7 News, "We're exercising an abundance of caution because the safety and wellness of our children and families is our first priority."

Around 200 kids are enrolled in this K-8 independent school. No public schools in Sonoma County were affected.

Elsewhere, administrators at Saklan School in Moraga are planning for the possibility of canceled classes and other events.

They're working on a partnership with the San Francisco-based start-up, Outschool- the marketplace of live online classes for K-12 learners.

Outschool co-founder and CEO, Amir Nathoo told ABC7 News, "It's actually interactive. So, the kids are talking to each other, they see each other. They're talking and interacting with a teacher."

Nathoo emphasized Outschool's approach is different from traditional online learning.

The company offers small group online classes for kids- usually three to eight students to one teacher.

"We feel a responsibility to help in a scenario where schools need to close because of Coronavirus," Nathoo said.

He added Outschool can help in two ways, it can offer services to impacted families and it can offer services to schools preparing for potential closure.

For schools, Nathoo said the company would offer training, webinars and resources for free.

RELATED: Coronavirus outbreak: 2 Palo Alto students sent home from school for possible exposure to COVID-19

He said Outschool has reached out to schools across the Bay Area and the country. He said there is interest from schools and district leaders.

"It's a terrible situation, but we want to do whatever we can," Nathoo said.

Tele-learning could be the future of education if families are forced to quarantine.

"Zoom and other options are there," Morgan Hill resident and parent, Vikram Arwade told ABC7 News. "There's online learning, our kids have a lot of online tutorials that they can go through."

Other Silicon Valley parents predict shutdowns and online learning options wouldn't disrupt education for their little ones.

"Both my kids, they do a lot of that at home already," Arwade said.

ABC7 News reached out to several Bay Area school districts and County Offices of Education. Many explained they are waiting on direction from the California Office of Education.

Locally, County offices said a major factor that needs to be considered with online learning is access and equity.