reopening the bay area

North Bay School District Plans to Reopen July 20

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A North Bay school district is believed to be the first in the state to announce they’re opening up early and school leaders have an interesting reasoning behind the decision.

In a rural corner of Napa County is the Pope Valley Elementary Union School District with its one K-8th grade school. On Friday, they announced they will open a full month early on July 20 with the goal of getting as much in-person class time before a potential second wave of COVID-19.

“Our students and our parents have been doing a great job,” said UESD Superintendent and Principal Ken Burkhart. “They’re stressed, they’re done and we need a break.” 

If a second wave does hit, they’ll go online again.

“We figured erring on the side of having kids in school is better,” said Burkhart. 

There will also be four week-long breaks added to the school year for staff, students and their parents.

“So that, our online teaching, if we have to do it next school year, will be a little bit less stress we’re hoping,” the superintendent said. “It’ll have a built-in break where needed.”

The state is allowing each district to make its own plans and some may choose staggered class days, or partial online learning.

The Pope Valley community survey was split, but the school board thought it was the right call and some parents agree.

“To me it doesn’t make sense to keep the kids in for so long,” said parent Benjamin Casas. “They need to get back into the habits that they are losing.”

Since the school is so small -- only 50 students total --  social distancing won’t be a problem.

Burkhart said this model might be harder for larger districts but could work for other rural ones like his.

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