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When will schools reopen in California? Anxious parents in Sonoma County want to know

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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.

Millions of parents of school-age children up and down the state of California were forced to confront the same unimaginable question Wednesday.

What if it’s true? What if the schools stay closed through spring, and then summer comes, and 6 million-some-odd kids are forced to stay at home until the traditional start of classes in the middle of August?

No one can say what will happen yet, but the very possibility of monthslong closures sent shock waves throughout the state, where parents already were scrambling to adjust to suspensions in classroom instruction announced just days ago.

“It’s a problem,” said Santa Rosa architect and mother-of-three Robin Stephani, her head shaking back and forth as she contemplated juggling her professional needs with kids at home.

Schools throughout Sonoma County are currently shuttered for spring break. While they would be permitted to operate under social distancing provisions in the shelter-in-place order that took effect Wednesday, local public schools — like many elsewhere around California — notified parents last weekend that children would not be returning to class anytime soon. Instead, students will be asked to learn remotely, through online lessons and instructional packets, for at least a few weeks after spring break to curb the spread of coronavirus.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Tuesday, however, that off-site learning would likely continue for the remainder of the school year, given the prospects for a prolonged siege.

Stephani, 47, said she and her husband, who runs a fabrication company, will probably pool resources with a couple of other families and trade off home-schooling responsibilities. But the plan right now? “I don’t know,” she said.

For some families, the transition to home-based learning might be simpler than for others — if there’s a stay-at-home parent not trying to work from home, for instance, or an older sibling who can help with child care. Several such families Wednesday were taking news of a possible classroom-free spring in stride, for the most part.

“I’m lucky,” Sebastopol father-of-two Eric Andruss said as he waited in a staggered line at the Redwood Credit Union branch on Dutton Avenue, where customers were invited in one-by-one. “My wife is a stay-at-home mom. We definitely have a daily routine.”

For others, particularly those juggling work outside the home, the idea was more daunting.

Windsor physical therapist Jonelle Broaddus said she missed news of the governor’s remarks Tuesday night and was alerted by a co-worker the next morning. “I was like, ‘What!?’ ” she said.

Though Broaddus, 38, works part-time, her job takes her out of the house and away from her three kids, ages 2 to 6. Her husband works full time.

If the two children in transitional kindergarten and first grade have to stay home from school, they can spend days at their grandparents’ with their younger sister and cousin. But there would be little opportunity for lessons there, with four kids running around, and Broaddus is worried about finding time for home-schooling and keeping them from falling behind.

“‘I definitely agree with being as safe as possible,” she said. “It’s just, it is difficult, and it will be difficult, if we have to home-school them.”

Lupe Navarro displayed a rather adventurous spirit about the days ahead at home with her 7-year-old son as she shopped for books at Target, choosing fun ones to keep her second-grader reading — “Bad Guys” anyone? — in addition to enriching activities like geography bingo.

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.

Navarro is working at home during these days of social distancing as executive director of the nonprofit Latino Service Providers and is looking for ways to engage her son creatively and intellectually. She also wants him to be involved in setting his own agenda to some degree, so he’s got buy-in. She has already downloaded free worksheets with second grade math, social science, geography and time lessons and was trying to work out how to ensure he didn’t lose his Spanish language skills while he was away from dual immersion school at Cali Calmécac Language Academy in Windsor.

Her cart contained several items she normally would not buy, like s’more ingredients for “indoor camping,” since they had to cancel their spring break trip, and Jell-O — “things he can make.” But her cart still had plenty of space, and she wanted to make sure not to buy more than the family needed, even if buying in volume is prevalent now.

“If we panic, then we’re teaching and educating our children to panic, in a time of crisis,” Navarro said.

Teachers with their own children are trying to figure out how to support their own kids, but also how they would make the shift to online learning for their classrooms.

Angel Casas-Eragea is a professor at Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College, and has been trying to figure out how to move his classes online. He and his wife, Christina Guerrero, are otherwise homeschooling their 6-year-old daughter, Feliciana, using lesson plans her teacher at Summerfield Waldorf School has been sending as guidance while she’s away from the classroom.

“Even if it’s difficult, we are making the necessary adjustment in our everyday lives,” Casas-Eragea said. “For us, it’s our priority.”

On Wednesday, he took his daughter on a walk to practice her numbers by counting flowers.

“We want to connect what she’s learning to something that is around our neighborhood,” Casas-Eragea said. “Then we arrive home, we review what we had done during our walk and then she writes the numbers.”

He said he finds it “hard” to believe that in-person classes really won’t resume until next fall. At the same time, “everything is changing so fast,” he and other teachers need to prepare for that possibility.

Cotati resident Bonny Russell Larrain also was worried — not just for her 13-year-old daughter, who may have to finish her last year at Hillcrest Middle School online, but also for Larrain’s kindergarten students at Apple Blossom School in Sebastopol.

She’s been studying Zoom, a video conferencing program teachers are turning to as a platform for virtual classrooms, and doing research on how to teach her kindergarten class online, which is “causing a lot of anxiety” for her, Larrain said. And she wanted to know more about why the governor believes classes likely won’t resume until next fall.

“I’m questioning if there really is a reason or if this is a premature decision,” Larrain said. “Because if it’s at all possible to go back to the classroom, I know I would. I know my daughter would. We would all like to go back to the classroom, but only if it’s safe.”

Staff Writer Chantelle Lee contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

The Press Democrat wants to know what stories you see emerging and what you're experiencing locally during the shelter-in-place order. Reach out to us at coronavirus@pressdemocrat.com.

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct Robin Stephani’s name.

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