Britton Middle School’s auditorium gets a new coat of paint to match the new buildings as part of the modernization project.

By Juan Reyes

The Santa Clara County Office of Education took another big hit Wednesday as schools sites within the district were officially shut down through the end of the Spring semester.

The California Department of Education released a statement Tuesday regarding school closures for the 2019-20 school year due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in the statement.

Steve Betando, superintendent at Morgan Hill Unified School District, sent a letter to families in the Morgan Hill community that it’s disheartening to know the students will not be back together in their classrooms for the remainder of the school year. 

“Learning in the presence of each other and their teachers has strong instructional, social and civic advantages,” he said. “The experience of school and a classroom community is so much more than assignments and individual academic work.” 

Betando added that they’ll miss the ways that a school community typically interacts and supports one another. 

“However, we are experiencing an unprecedented time where we must continue to physically distance ourselves from one another,” he said.

Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, county superintendent of schools at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, issued a press release Wednesday with news of the school closures.

“To be clear, the 2019-2020 school year has not ended,” Dewan said. “The remainder of the school year now transitions from in-person classroom instruction to instruction and support for students through distance learning options as described by the California Department of Education.”

On Tuesday, Thurmond also noted that the extension of school closures doesn’t mean the school year is over. 

Instead, he mentioned the efforts should go into strengthening delivery of education through distance learning.

“With that said, we are doing everything we can to support our schools and their distance learning opportunities for our students,” Thurmond said.

Dewan said they plan to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic with help from Dr. Sara Cody of Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

“We acknowledge that distance learning comes with its own set of challenges, and we commit to provide students, families and educators with ongoing support,” Dewan said. 

On Tuesday, Gilroy Unified School District began distributing Chromebooks to students who have technology needs.

Dr. Deborah Flores, superintendent at Gilroy Unified School District, said in an email that she’s proud of the hard work they’ve put in over the last week to create opportunities for students to have access to technology while schools are closed. 

“We are doing all that we can to create equitable access to high quality education for all of our students,” Flores said. “[Tuesday’s] distribution was the first step in this process, and I look forward to providing more Chromebooks for our students.”

As of now, they’ll only be distributing 2,000 of the units, one per family. They were expecting about 600 units to be given out March 31. 

Dewan said each district will provide families with information regarding how grades, graduation, transcripts, scholarships, summer school and continued distance learning instruction will be handled.

“Our community is strong, and together we will overcome the negative impact of these life-changing events,” Dewan said.

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