Editor’s note: This situation is developing extremely fast. If you are reading this article the day after publication please go to our latest reporting for more recent information. We will also update this article as more information is available.
At a Glance
- All schools countywide will move to “modified schooling” which many different things for each district, at the direction of Public Health
- Ukiah Unified will have classes Monday, March 16, then switch to remote learning
- Willits Unified will have their sites open Monday for kids to pick up materials and will switch to distance learning, beginning Tuesday.
- Fort Bragg likewise will hold class Monday, then close school starting March 17. Fort Bragg will be determining which measures to take.
- Town of Mendocino schools are closed.
- Covelo schools are closed
- School closures are scheduled to extend through mid-April, or up through spring break at which point officials will re-evaluate that dangers and risks of the corona virus.
UPDATE 8:10 p.m. — The Ukiah Unified School District and the Fort Bragg Unified School District have both instituted similar policies whereby schools will remain open Monday, March 16, for children to come to school, touch base, and gather materials — then they will close for at least a month, until spring break, at which time there will be a reevaluation of circumstances by public health and education officials.
These school districts and others are moving to “modified schooling,” or “distance learning” models. Mostly this will mean that children will be asked to do school work from packets, and online. At least Willits Unified has said that they will continue to provide breakfast and lunch hot meals, in a “pick up and go” fashion. It’s unclear if other districts will be doing likewise.
UPDATE 3:12 p.m. — Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan in conjunction with Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins are now saying that all schools in Mendocino County will be transitioning to “modified schooling,” by Tuesday, March 17. This will mostly mean that schools will be closed, though in most cases schools will implement some kind of distance learning, either with packets or online class.
In a brief interview Hutchins, who is superintendent for the county government not any individual district, said that things are changing and developing quickly, but that, “Erring on the side of safety is the thing to do right now.” She elaborated that modified schooling could mean a wide variety of things. One example would be reducing class size, and isolating groups of children, but such measures are unlikely to be possible given current staff levels. Hutchins also noted that the governor’s office will be holding a meeting with local officials tomorrow at 2 p.m. to provide new guidelines and information. In addition the federal CDC is saying that schools may need to be close for between eight and 20 weeks.
School district officials across the county are currently meeting and discussing what this modified schooling will mean for each district. The outcomes will vary by district and could range from online classes, distance learning, outright closure, and continued attendance for very small districts, that can closely monitor children. And of course school officials are receiving substantial political pressure from parents and even elected officials to close the schools.
Here is the statement from public health and education officials:
Mendocino County Health Officer and Mendocino County Office of Education Issue Statement Regarding Modified Schooling
County Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan and Mendocino County Superintendent Michelle Hutchins are issuing the following statement regarding modified schooling:
By March 17th all school districts in Mendocino County will transition to modified schooling. The Mendocino County Office of Education and Mendocino County Health Officer will work directly with the school districts in early April to reevaluate the need for continued modified schooling after spring break. School districts across Mendocino County will be customizing the modified schooling approach based on local needs and resources, which may include suspending site based learning.
Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan stated, “After discussions with the Superintendents of every district in Mendocino County, I support the decision of our education leaders to initiate modified schooling until mid-April. As a community we must emphasize the importance of social distancing with our children to make the transition to modified schooling an effective mitigation strategy for COVID-19.”
County Superintendent Michelle Hutchins stated, “The collaborative effort of our school leaders and Health Officer is impressive. I applaud the efforts of each school leader as they work with their schools to employ modified schooling. Public Health is supporting each school district to define the particulars of modified schooling to best meet the needs of each community and make best use of local resources.”
Please visit www.mendocinocounty.org for the latest local news on COVID-19. For general health related questions or other concerns regarding COVID-19, please call Mendocino County’s Call Center at (707) 234-6052 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The call center will be open during regular business hours, Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.County of Mendocino
UPDATE 2:24 p.m — Beginning tomorrow Lake County schools will be closed until April 10, though that may be reevaluated.
UPDATE 1:30 p.m. — Just after 1 p.m. today Willits Unified School District announced via Facebook that they would be closing schools until April 13. They added that breakfast and lunch will still be served. This adds Willits to the Round Valley and Town of Mendocino school districts in closing.
Here is the statement from Willits:
All school sites will be open on Monday for students to get any materials they need, but normal in-class instruction will be suspended until April 13. Students will be expected to begin their packets or online instruction. Please say turned into information because this is a changing situation. It will be our hope to have our libraries open for students who need access. Breakfast and lunch will be provided through the high school in a pick up and go fashion.Willits Unified School District via Facebook
MENDOCINO Co., 3/15/20 — There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 (AKA coronavirus) within Mendocino County as of March 15, and Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan has not yet directed the closure of the county’s school. On March 13, two of the county’s school districts, Mendocino Unified and Round Valley Unified, decided to close temporarily due to the pandemic, although Doohan issued a statement that evening reiterating her suggestion that schools remain open. Doohan, along with county officials, will be meeting with the heads of county school districts on Sunday. A number of superintendents have begun preparing plans to temporarily close, including developing remote lesson plans, and have told parents and students to expect an announcement after today’s meeting at noon meeting with county officials.
Both Mendocino Unified and Round Valley Unified school districts announced closures on Friday due to concerns about possible community spread of the coronavirus. Doohan emphasized in a press conference on Thursday, March 12, and again in her statement on schools closures on Friday, and in an interview March 14, that since Mendocino has not seen any confirmed COVID-19 cases, she does not believe there is currently any community spread of the virus within the county.
However, in order to address the concerns of the superintendents, many of whom have faced questions from parents and even county supervisors concerning the need for school closures, Doohan will be meeting with district representatives on Sunday to address school district concerns, and determine how the county could best support them although she had not directed closures.
Mendocino Unified has directed schools be closed from March 16 through March 27, and told parents that spring break may be scheduled and the temporary closure will be re-evaluated weekly (see statement below). Round Valley Unified will be closing from March 16 until April 3, and will not be providing school meals, according to a statement on Facebook (see below). Several school superintendents of districts that remain open, including Mark Westerberg of Willits Unified, have informed parents they expect to announce updates on Sunday afternoon. Ukiah Unified also issued a statement on March 13 re-iterating that schools remain open.
Some Mendocino College students have also heard from some instructors that class may go online beginning this week.
Doohan stressed in a March 14 interview and in her statement on March 13 what she believes is the great importance of access to school for children, saying she preferred to keep kids in school and learning if possible. She has stated that Mendocino County will be following the guidelines of Bay Area school districts.
However, though a number of Bay Area Districts have ordered closures, as of Saturday she stated that since Mendocino County has not reported any cases, closures were not necessary. In the same March 14 interview, Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo noted that county and public health officials have spent the last few days talking and meeting with the superintendents of the various school districts in Mendocino County, and that so far they do not believe it’s time to close everything down yet. Schools in a number of states have been shut down from anywhere between two and six weeks, including some districts in California, but there has been no statewide directive regarding school closures. Doohan emphasized the importance of “social distancing,” especially for the elderly and those with health problems, and directed the cancellation of events over 250 people during the county’s March 12 press conference.
Individual school districts have been surveying students and determining how they would approach developing remote lessons plans, given that students may not have internet access, as well as other key services such as subsidized meals and mental health treatment. California has received a waiver from the USDA to continue school lunches under closure conditions, but it is unclear how those meals might be distributed in case of closures — and it would likely be a logistical decision made on the district level. In previous press conferences Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins that she was talking with districts concerning increased cleaning, remote lesson plans, and potential closures.
Community members seem divided on the issue — some parents have stated they will be keeping children home, while others have expressed concerns about the impacts of school closures on students who rely on school meals, or do not have easy access to the internet at home, as well as the potential broader impacts that closures could have on working parents and others. One group has started a petition requesting Ukiah Unified temporarily close.
Here’s the statement from Doohan regarding school closures sent out on March 13. Our complete coverage of COVID-19 can be found here, and we will continue to update as more information becomes available.
Facebook post from Round Valley Unified, March 13:
Due to the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus Round Valley Unified School District will be closed for the next three weeks. Starting Monday March 16- Friday April 3 there will be no school. We are planning on resuming school April 6th, but this closure can be extended if necessary. Teachers are getting work together for the students so they can still do work over the break. We will also be offering food for our students and I will follow up with a schedule later in the day how that will work.
In order to limit the potential community spread you all need to do as much self-quarantine as possible. Your children shouldn’t be out and everyone need to limit their exposure to others. All school activities will be suspended and all school facilities will be off limits, no public access with exception to the limited school personnel that will be here.
If you have any questions please call me at the DO
Statement from Mendocino Unified to parents, March 13:
I have decided to close MUSD schools for two weeks beginning March 16th through March 27th. I will be re-evaluating the situation each week. Should the closure extend, there is a possibility that spring break would be moved. While there are still no confirmed cases in Mendocino County, it is our responsibility as a public organization to be leaders in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
We are currently working on a plan for supplemental education, mental health services, and possibly nutrition services. We will provide more information about these programs early next week.
The reason for closing schools is to reduce the potential for community transmission should COVID-19 be in our community. We recommend that staff, students, and parents limit gatherings and refrain from travelling to and from areas in the state that have known COVID-19 outbreaks.
Information regarding this closure will be updated as needed and will be posted on the email lists, the MUSD website (http://www.mendocinousd.org), and on the K-8 main office door.
Other press releases:
Ukiah Unified School District Announces Transition to Remote Learning for All Students
Ukiah, CA – Due to increased concerns about the COVID-19 situation and the potential impact on our schools and community, it is with a heavy heart that we announce we will be suspending site-based instruction and transition to remote learning at all Ukiah Unified School District schools beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Spring Break on Monday, April 13. We are holding classes tomorrow, Monday, March 16, 2020; they will start and end at regular times.
We will be transitioning all students to remote learning, which means that students do not physically attend school, but receive and complete lessons at home.
All after school activities, child care, and field trips will be canceled during this time as well. Before April 13, we will evaluate the situation and determine if we can resume site-based instruction.
We will be communicating more in the near future about remote learning, meals, and social-emotional support for our students. You may also check www.uusd.net to find out more.Ukiah Unified School District