All 12 school districts in San Benito County will close to students on Monday for one week, after a new COVID-19 case was reported in the county, county school officials said Friday afternoon, March 13. Teachers and staff are not affected, officials said.

“The safety and well-being of students, families, and school personnel are the highest priorities of all San Benito County schools, districts, and programs serving our infants, children, youth and young adults,” said Krystal Lomanto, County Superintendent of Schools, in a communication to parents and teachers.

“There is one new confirmed case in San Benito County as of today, March 13, and in an abundance of caution and after long and careful deliberation, the San Benito County Office of Education and San Benito County School District Superintendents in conjunction with the San Benito County Health Department have decided to close public schools,” said Lomanto.

The county health department released no information or confirmation of the new COVID-19 case.

“Our school communities have been following guidance and directives from the local, state and national health departments,” Lomanto said. “Our state and local health and government entities have expressed the need to increase our preventative measures to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the various ways we as communities can work together to do so.” The schools will be closed for students starting Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20. Staff and teachers will work at the schools.

“Each district will communicate to their families regarding extending closure dates past March 20,” Lomanto said. 

In a joint statement, the 12 superintendents in the county, said they will “dismiss” students from attending school Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20.

“A dismissal indicates teachers and staff will still report for duty on campus, while all students will not be on campus, for any purpose,” the statement read.

“We will continue to assess the situation to determine whether an extension of school closures beyond March 20 will be necessary. Families will be notified no later than Wednesday, March 18 at 5pm with the latest information,” the superintendents wrote.

The superintendents said that 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,” the superintendents said in the statement.

“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,” the statement continued.

“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,”

“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,” the superintendents’ letter said.

The superintendents are Michele Huntoon, Aromas San Juan Unified School District; Superintendent Candace Brewen, Bitterwater-Tully Elementary School District; Superintendent/Principal Nancy MacLean, Cienega Elementary School District; Principal/Teacher Kevin Sved, Navigator Charter School Chief Executive Officer; Diego Ochoa, Hollister School District Superintendent; Elizabeth Volmer, Jefferson Elementary School District Superintendent/Principal; Jennifer Bernosky, North County Joint Union School District Superintendent/Principal; Amanda McCraw, Panoche Elementary School District Principal/Teacher; Shawn Tennenbaum, San Benito High School Superintendent; John Schilling, Southside Elementary School District Superintendent/Principal; Bronson Mendes-Lobue, Tres Pinos Elementary School District Superintendent/Principal; Linda Smith, Willow Grove Elementary School District.

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