Health officers in 10 greater SF Bay Area counties make statement on schools

Photo of Amy Graff

The exterior of Bella Vista Elementary School, an Oakland Public school in Oakland, California.

The exterior of Bella Vista Elementary School, an Oakland Public school in Oakland, California.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

A delegation of health officers from 10 counties and one city in the greater San Francisco Bay Area released a statement Friday supporting the opening of California schools for full-time in person learning across all grades for fall 2021. 

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley all joined the effort, saying “lack of in-person learning has disrupted education, weakened the social supports provided by school communities, negatively impacted mental health, and prevented participation in the rituals and shared milestones that tie our communities together.”

“Students, parents, teachers, coaches – and their families – deserve our thanks for the considerable sacrifices they have made,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Health Officer and Public Health Division Director of Sonoma County. “It’s time to move past the remote-learning model and back to the full range of learning and support that our educational communities provide.” 

Schools in California aren’t required by law to reopen and while Gov. Gavin Newsom has encouraged schools to reopen with economic incentives, he hasn’t issued a mandate to force reopening. 

“Mandates are often not looked upon as favorably as you would like to think,” Newsom said in April. “That said, we anticipate and expect our kids back safely in in-person instruction this fall, and you’ll be hearing more about that.”

What’s more, Assembly Bill 86 passed in March calls on schools to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research has found that K–12 schools practicing prevention strategies “have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open.”

“The science is now clear that the risk of transmission among children wearing masks is very low, even with reduced spacing between desks,” the Bay Area health officers said in their statement, urging administrators to plan and head for welcoming students back into classrooms in fall.