Schools Anticipate Safety Measures, Community Concerns
By Dianne Anderson
Alpha, Beta, and the highly contagious Delta COVID variants have parents worried about getting kids safely back to school as the virus spikes.
Hospitals could again become overwhelmed, and it’s hard to tell what to expect in the weeks ahead as Delta rages on. As cases continue to swell, might the state shut down? Those that are unvaccinated are also expected to continue to drive increased cases of the more transmissible variant.
Pastor Samuel Casey with COPE, who has been involved with mobilizing Black parent involvement in education, said he understands community concerns, including the distrust of the vaccination process.
But he also said the community should listen to the science.
With kids headed back to school, he feels the community must be patient with the process, and take a mental health break whenever possible. There are several issues to get through during the year ahead.
Everyone is impacted, and he said people should be allowed the space to say they’re not okay and not be judged for it.
“There’s not one phrase that can capture this,” he said. “None of us from educators to parents to students to community to clergy to first responders to nurses and medical staff have ever been in the midst of the pandemic of this proportion at all.”
His wife is a principal, and he said there is a concern about a sort of lethargy hanging in the air.
“It’s with the teachers, low motivation, it’s not anything to do with the students, but really just the energy level. [It’s] a strained motivation to return to in-person learning at this time,” he said.
Some breakthrough cases are happening even among those that have received a vaccine, but current data shows protection against the serious symptoms of the Delta variant.
Over 80% of COVID cases are now of the Delta strain, and research shows that people with Delta are twice as likely to die than with the prior COVID-19 strains.
Last week, a widely reported CDC internal memo leaked to the Washington Post stated that transmission of the Delta virus is more contagious than chickenpox.
Maria Garcia, spokesperson for San Bernardino Unified School District, said the district has outlined numerous measures and safety protocols as masked students returned to school Monday.
She said all students will get a reusable free water bottle to bring to school each day. All drinking fountains with water bottle-filling stations will be widely available to prevent the COVID-19 spread.
School buses will also follow strict safety rules. Students must wear face coverings on the bus, and cannot choose the seats they want. Instead, they will sit two to a seat with grades one through twelve filling back through the front. No temperature checks will be given on the bus as parents may not be available to release the student at the bus stop. Weather permitting, she said bus windows will be open for airflow.
Parents may be able to access the vaccine for themselves and their children at designated locations.
“We continue partnering with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, which has hosted vaccination clinics in SBCUSD schools. Currently, Middle College High School is being used as a county vaccination site,” Garcia said.
To prepare for HVAC filtering and ventilation, MERV-11 air filters in all classrooms, and HEPA air scrubbers in all classrooms, which will run continuously throughout the school day. Filters will be changed per the manufacturer’s specifications.
She said that school custodians are specially trained on disinfecting procedures, using electrostatic sprayers, a new tool making it easier to clean surfaces that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs.
To control the spread, every SBCUSD school will have its own COVID-19 liaisons, available to connect with parents and guardians to keep them informed and serve as a primary point of contact for students who test positive for COVID-19.
Liaisons will also coordinate on-site testing for students with parent and guardian permission, and staff who wish to be tested. The liaisons will conduct confidential contact tracing interviews to determine who may have come in contact with a COVID-positive student or employee, and give them the next steps.
Garcia emphasized the district is urging all families to keep their contact information up to date via the Aeries parent portal.
“Families can do their part by ensuring that children complete a health self-assessment every day before going to school. And children or staff members who exhibit new COVID-19 symptoms, are awaiting test results, or may have been exposed to COVID-19 are reminded to stay home,” she said.
SBCUSD contracts with AM LLC, a company that provides school liaisons. They are currently hiring to fill local positions. Apply online at https://amllc.co/careers.
Riverside Unified School District did not respond to several requests for comment by press time.
For SBCUSD COVID Updates, see https://www.sbcusd.com/covid-19_updates
For the CDC data tracker, see https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations
To understand the Delta, see UC Davis Health at