Two days before Governor Gavin Newsom ordered schools closed in counties on watch lists for upswings in COVID-19, the Sacramento County Office of Education’s Superintendent David Gordon and County Health Director, Dr. Peter Beilenson announced that county schools should remain closed.

“We have jointly come to the conclusion that conditions are not safe enough for students, staff and families to allow schools to open up in person at this time,” Gordon said. “No one more than us want students to be able to return to school, return to their friends, return to their sports and extracurricular activities. But we have to do it in a way that protects the community and helps us slow the curve of infections.”

Beilenson said that the COVID-19 rates in Sacramento County had risen to more than 1,000 cases a week.

Galt Joint Union Elementary School District will be among 13 districts in the county to open to distance learning only.

Superintendent Dr. Karen Schauer said a letter was sent out on Friday to parents informing them that all students would start school as distance learners.

“I am confident we will implement a more effective level of distance learning that will improve upon our work from last spring,” wrote Schauer in the letter. “In addition, with the progress we have made to prepare for reopening school on campus, we will be able to transition to on campus learning more efficiently, once health conditions permit.”

The start date for the new school year might be pushed back to Aug. 20, according to Schauer, so teachers and staff have time for additional training.

“Last Tuesday evening, our Board of Trustees gave direction and feedback to strengthen the developing Transitional Reopening Schools Model that included distance learning and the gradual phasing in of on campus learning,” Schauer said. “The Board of Trustees will meet again this Wednesday with the open session teleconference meeting at 7 p.m.”

The administration, teachers and staff members have spent time during the summer on plans for this year’s instruction.

“We learned a lot from the emergency conditions that launched distance learning unexpectedly last spring, and we received a lot of feedback through surveys with students, parents, teachers and classified staff,” Schauer said. “During July, teachers representing each school, including educators providing special education services, are meeting this month to develop distance planning elements more effectively during the new school year.”

Issues the district will continue to work through include ongoing messaging to stakeholders given changing conditions, improved internet access for effective distance learning in every student’s home, staff training, and ensuring high needs learners have added support due to resource needs, including nutritional, social emotional and learning acceleration.

Principals will monitor and give support to students and virtually observe lessons to see if changes should be made. Struggling students will be provided with extra support by staff members. In August, educators will work on planning and have trainings throughout the month, according to Schauer.

“It takes a village of staff, parents and students to work together responsibly and responsively to make distance learning work effectively,” Schauer said. “We need to ensure distance expectations and resources are shared, understood and used.”