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Sonoma County schools looking to public health officials on any decision to close

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Sonoma County schools brace for closures

Closures at Sonoma County colleges and schools

  • Santa Rosa Junior College: 22,676 students; All classes suspended through March 29; spring break next week
  • Sonoma State University: 9,408 students; Face-to-face classes suspended until March 24; spring break next week
  • Santa Rosa City Schools: 14,618 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Petaluma City Schools: 6,530 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Cotati-Rohnert Park: 5,766 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Windsor: 3,924 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Sonoma Valley: 3,873 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week

How to reduce your risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

School districts across Sonoma County remained in a holding pattern Friday, awaiting guidance from county health officials on whether they should stay closed after spring break for most of next week as a safeguard against community spread of the coronavirus.

The area’s 40 public districts account for nearly 70,000 K-12 students, and they are being counseled by the county Office of Education based on guidance from the county public health division.

The California Department of Health guidelines currently require a closure if a student or staff member tests positive for the virus. Those directives, overseen locally by the county’s public health officer, have not changed since Saturday.

However, with President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency Friday afternoon in order to marshal resources and expand virus testing, new mandates may be coming for local schools.

“We are anticipating this could change and were told there may be new guidance coming out from the state on this,” said Jamie Hansen, spokeswoman for the county Office of Education. “We are basically trying to help school districts prepare and consider that they may have to extend their spring break.”

The county Office of Education “cannot tell a school district when to close,” Hansen said. “Each school district is autonomous to make the decision, but in this case it’s the public health office since they’re the experts in mitigating spread.”

So far, every local district has stopped short of a precautionary shutdown.

But Sonoma County’s two public colleges took that step this week, with Santa Rosa Junior College late Friday extending its closure through March 29. Outside the county, many of the largest school districts in the state said they would close, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

On the North Coast, they were joined by the Mendocino Unified School District, which announced Friday it would be canceling classes for two weeks until March 27. Spring break for the roughly 13,100-student district begins April 13.

Napa Unified School District adopted an even lengthier shutdown, closing classrooms until April 13.

Sonoma County school administrators and staff are capitalizing on the spring break window next week to craft lessons students and teachers could use to sustain remote instruction, in the event students are told to stay home, said Hansen, the education office spokeswoman.

Public middle and high schools in Santa Rosa, the largest district in the county, operated under a minimum day schedule Friday so teachers could start planning for remote instruction.

Area administrators have been wary of quickly closing since public schools are considered essential services in California, providing childcare and meals, she said.

Roughly 31,320 local students, or more than 45% of the school population, qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

As conditions continued to evolve, some local districts began shifting their tone Friday, warning that a closure was anticipated. Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel, in a letter to the community on Friday, said elementary school students would be coming home with packets of material that could cover two weeks of instruction.

Every Healdsburg secondary student in grades 6-12 has a Google Chromebook laptop, and teachers were preparing for remote learning online, he said. If a closure was ordered, he said, staff members would take the first day for planning and prep work.

Healdsburg schools were also “preparing to offer pre-made meals to families whose children are part of the free and reduced lunch program,” Vanden Heuvel said. “We have also purchased mobile hot spots for families of secondary students who do not have Internet access and will be checking them out as needed.”

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com.

Sonoma County schools brace for closures

Closures at Sonoma County colleges and schools

  • Santa Rosa Junior College: 22,676 students; All classes suspended through March 29; spring break next week
  • Sonoma State University: 9,408 students; Face-to-face classes suspended until March 24; spring break next week
  • Santa Rosa City Schools: 14,618 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Petaluma City Schools: 6,530 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Cotati-Rohnert Park: 5,766 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Windsor: 3,924 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week
  • Sonoma Valley: 3,873 students; No decision made yet; spring break next week

How to reduce your risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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