Information provided by the San Benito County Office of Education.
The safety and wellness of students, families, and school personnel are the highest priorities of all San Benito County schools and districts. This morning (March 13), we received notification of one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Benito County. In advance of more COVID-19 cases that are anticipated to follow, School District Superintendents and the San Benito County Office of Education have decided in concurrence with the San Benito County Health Services Agency to “dismiss” students from attending school Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20, 2020. A dismissal indicates teachers and staff will still report for duty on campus, while all students will not be on campus, for any purpose. This dismissal includes all public schools in San Benito County for the week of March 16-20. We will continue to assess the situation to determine whether an extension of school closures beyond March 20th will be necessary. Families will be notified no later than Wednesday, March 18 at 5 p.m. with the latest information. San Benito County Public Health Officer, Dr. Martin Fenstersheib, reported that while the number of cases in our county remains small at this time, the San Benito County Public Health Division expects those numbers to grow significantly in the coming days and weeks which may require a continued response.
The school dismissal will provide our school staff the opportunity to prepare materials and resources should additional closures be deemed necessary. Districts will send information to their families about vital services and resources our schools offer to our community, including, but not limited to, free and reduced meal programs. Schools will be contacting families promptly about services available to them throughout the closure.
Several other districts in California and across the country have made similar choices, including Santa Clara County, Carmel Unified School District, the state of Ohio, and the state of Maryland.
While we recognize this decision will pose challenges and hardships to many families in our county, the most effective way to slow and disrupt the transmission of this pandemic is by implementing social distancing practices. During the time of the school closure we are asking that students and families follow the County’s Public Health Officer’s directive to stay home and minimize social contact to the extent possible. Protecting public health requires a community-wide response, and we will need the help of families to help remain united in our response. While children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from COVID-19, they are still able to transmit the virus to populations who are most vulnerable to serious illness, such as older adults and those with compromised immune systems. Please encourage students to avoid large public gatherings such as malls, movie theaters, and other spaces, especially those that are indoors.
We understand that implementing these changes with such limited notice is challenging and disruptive, and we appreciate your patience and cooperation. We are grateful to community members throughout our county for their tremendous efforts during these challenging times.
This is a dynamic situation where information and circumstances can evolve quickly. For the latest updates, visit the Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 website at https://www.cdc.gov/COVID19. The San Benito County Office of Education continues to update its web page at https://www.sbcoe.org/. For local information, residents may visit www.sanbenito211.org/coronavirus, call 211 or text “coronavirus” to 211211.