The Sonoma County Office of Education, in partnership with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services and other state and regional agencies, continues to closely monitor and prepare for Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. As of this letter, there are three confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Sonoma County, but no cases of “community spread.” One person was transferred to Sonoma County for care from Travis Air Force Base, while the other two individuals had recently traveled internationally on a cruise ship.
For the most up-to-date information from health officials, please visit socoemergency.org.
Q: Who makes the decision to close school due to Coronavirus?
A: In the event that a school needs to close, the county public health officer would make that determination in collaboration with the affected school district. SCOE acts as a liaison between school districts and the public health officer. For this reason, SCOE is in close, regular communication with county health officials in order to provide up-to-date guidance to school districts.
Q: Under what circumstances would a school or district close?
A: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on March 7 provided detailed guidance regarding when schools should close or take other preventive steps based on four different scenarios. The first scenario outlines the current situation in Sonoma County, in which schools are preparing but there have been no cases of the virus spreading between community members. Under this scenario, no school closures are required, but students/staff who present signs of fever or respiratory illness should be kept home or sent home immediately. Schools would consult with public health to consider closure under the third scenario, in which a student or staff member tests positive for the virus. Considerations would be based on the risk level to the community determined by public health.
Q: Are there any plans to alter or cancel travel, field trips, school activities, etc. due to concerns?
A: At this time, school districts are considering field trips and events on a case-by-case basis. In a meeting with school district leaders, the county’s public health officer advised the postponement of out-of-county field trips and overnight field trips. The public health officer also recommended exercising caution when attending large events. This week, Governor Newsom defined large events as those with more than 100 people. Schools should consider these recommendations when planning field trips and graduation ceremonies. The CDC has released guidance for schools to exclude students, teachers, or staff who have a travel history over the course of the last 14 days to an area identified by the CDC as Level 3 Travel Health Notice. For further information on travel advisories, please consult the US State Department's website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/novel-coronavirus-hubei-province--china.html
Q: Are additional sanitization procedures taking place in classrooms and offices?
A: Districts are being encouraged to use flu-season cleaning protocols, which include frequent wipe-downs of commonly touched surfaces. SCOE has created a school site cleaning protocol that districts may use to guide their cleaning efforts. At SCOE’s main offices, custodial staff are cleaning conference room surfaces between each event.
Q: If a school gets shut down, what ”distance learning” or Independent Study protocols are being considered?
A: SCOE is currently working to support districts in auditing their technology and internet access to determine if it would be possible to provide distance learning. Schools would need to provide equal access to all students. The current state policies around when school districts can provide distance learning are restrictive and may not allow districts to easily provide independent study in the event of school closures. SCOE is asking state leaders for greater flexibility around these guidelines so that schools can more easily provide independent study if needed.
Q: Do schools have an emergency response plan for Coronavirus?
A: Yes, SCOE has created an infectious disease control plan that has been approved by the public health department. It is available here.