The County of Monterey is the latest to close schools for the remainder of March.
These school closures are coming with some challenges, especially for working parents.
“Just having kids at home and nobody there watching them,” mother Ruby Martinez said. “Not everybody, you know, has teenage kids to watch the younger ones.”
Martinez has five kids whose classes have been canceled.
“They’re just gonna have to be home,” Martinez said. “I live five minutes away from work. So I’m just hoping my employer will be flexible. And if I need to go home, I can go home.”
But she said she’s worried about keeping them busy and well fed. She thinks the only option is cooking bigger meals at night.
“Make sure we have enough for dinner and leave the children with food for
the next day,” Martinez said.
And when it comes to their homework, the high schoolers are likely going to have work online. Luckily, Martinez has wifi for her kids. But not everyone does.
“I do not, and I know it’s so important to have that at home,” mother Norma Esparza said.
But she said she has faith that the schools will provide wifi hotspots for students.
County education officials said that’d the ideal scenario, but they need extra funding from the state for it.
“To help us be able to provide internet connectivity, and any other additional resources that will be needed for us to continue the educational programming for our students,” Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Deneen Guss said.
But even though that funding has been approved, those hotspots won’t necessarily work in some of the more remote school districts, like Big Sur.
“We have huge connectivity issues throughout the county,” Guss said.
So, for now, each school district is evaluating its circumstances. And, officials say, some might just have to be flexible by handing out physical packets of work or inviting small groups of students to come on campus at a time.
Parents received the following letter:
The safety and well-being of students, families, and school personnel are the highest priorities of all Monterey County schools, districts, and programs serving our infants, children, youth and young adults. Our school communities have been following guidance and directives from the local, state and national health departments.
Our state and local health and government entities have expressed the need to increase our preventative measures to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the various ways we as communities can work together to do so. There are no confirmed cases in Monterey County as of today, March 13, 2020, but in an abundance of caution and after long and careful deliberation, the Monterey County Office of Education and Monterey County School District Superintendents in conjunction with the Monterey County Health Department have decided to close all public schools and extracurricular programs in Monterey County schools for the remainder of March. Schools will be closed for students starting Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31. Each district will communicate to their families regarding extending closure dates past March 31.
Our school staffs will work together during this time to prepare and explore options of alternate education methods. We also will work to ensure that throughout the closure, districts provide the vital services and resources our schools offer to our community, including, but not limited to, free and reduced meal programs. Schools will be contacting families in the coming days about services available to them throughout the closure.
Schools are an essential service and crucial to our communities. We are facing an unprecedented health crisis in our community, and new information is surfacing rapidly. It is probable our community will see cases of COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months and this will require a measured, sustained response.
While we recognize this decision may pose challenges and hardship to many families in Monterey County, the most effective way to slow and disrupt the transmission of this pandemic is by implementing social distancing practices. In order for these preventative measures to be effective, students should stay home and minimize social contact as much as possible to keep caregivers and adult family members safe. Children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus. However, they can transmit the virus to those most vulnerable. Public health officials recommend that families make arrangements for childcare during closure that avoid leaving children with elderly or those with compromised immune systems, those who are more vulnerable to the impact of the virus.
We know this decision creates a number of pressing questions and concerns. More detailed information will be shared as soon as possible about this unique situation, how employees will be impacted, and how families can support student learning during school closures. As a priority, we are working to provide nutrition services to all families in alternative formats.
As parents and caregivers, you are your child’s first teacher, and you are your child’s most influential teacher. Ongoing developments regarding COVID-19 may be overwhelming, especially to younger children. Parents and community members can help children and youth understand the situation better by discussing their specific questions and concerns. Resources for how to talk to children and youth about COVID-19 will be shared in future communications.