Here's what Bay Area classrooms look like as they reopen during COVID-19

Lyanne Melendez Image
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Bay Area continues to reopen schools, slowly
Hundreds of public and private schools in California have been given waivers to reopen for in-person learning. Here's what this looks like as districts navigate new COVID-19 regulations.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hundreds of public and private schools in California have been given waivers to reopen for in-person learning.

Priority is given to the younger grades as they benefit the most from that one-on-one attention from teachers.

RELATED: COVID-19 impact: Kindergarten enrollment down across Bay Area

One of them is the Lycee Francais which reopened its Sausalito campus on September 8.

"We had to show that the safety protocols were in place to welcome students and adults safely on campus," explained Agnes Hogan of the Lycee Francais.

To obtain a waiver, the school had to verify that they are following 30 so-called "elements of safety" imposed by the Marin County Public Health Department.

"From screening children before they come in, screening staff, making sure they had testing resources available to them, disinfecting practices, that they understood that there needed to be someone on site that could be the liaison to public health if there is a case (of coronavirus) on campus so we can react as quickly as possible," said the director of that department, Matt Willis.

WATCH: Here's what it's like to teach children to read over Zoom during COVID-19

Bay Area teacher gives inside look into the advantages and disadvantages of teaching children over zoom.

At the Lycee, the older students must sit at least six feet apart, and the school uses the outdoors as much as possible.

"And the children are amazing, they adapt so well. They are very careful to wear the masks and to respect the rules," added Hogan.

So far "dozens" of schools in Marin County have reopened for in-person learning.

To date, there has been only one reported case of COVID-19, and none at the Lycee among the 150 students there. "Knocking on wood," expressed Hogan.

The Lycee has three other campuses in San Francisco. They now have also been granted waivers.

To make sure that social distancing in the classroom is maintained, they are now opening a fourth campus in the city.

RELATED: Bay Area parents, teachers, students weigh in on distance learning challenges since start of school

In addition, they've had to hire more staff to ensure that the younger kids continue practicing the appropriate social distancing.

"We are spending much more money than we should have initially, but I think it's totally worth it because that's really for the good for the children, for their benefit," said Emmanuel Texier, the head of the Lycee Francais.

He explained that it was important to reopen for the mental health of the children.

"Initially when they arrived they were a bit shy, they were staying on their own and we had to rebuild that culture of being at school, of being together," he told us.

MORE: Will online learning improve this fall for CA elementary schools? Here's what teachers, officials say

The first school in the Bay Area to reopen was Sunnyvale Christian in Santa Clara County, on August 27. "It is sometimes inconvenient, if not onerous to follow all those regulations, but they are working," said John Christie, Interim Principal of the school.

Just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the school and each classroom is sanitized.

But this is one school with only 111 students, preschool to 5th grade. How does a large district with multiple schools reopen?

"I would encourage the larger school districts to consider reopening following the guidelines but the teachers have to be committed, they have to be on board. We have a great teaching staff and that has been a blessing for us," added Christie.

Public school districts and their labor unions are looking at these mostly private schools to see what has worked and what could be done better, before determining when and if to return safely to the classroom.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS: