CCEE’s spotlight on Marin County Office of Education’s (MCOE) collaborative approach to getting students back to school details the phased-in process MCOE is implementing in collaboration with partner agencies, service providers, school districts, private schools, educators, students, families, and community stakeholders. Marin’s journey began in March 2020, with the leveraging of existing resources and expertise to offer emergency daycare services to essential workers. Serving small cohorts of children at pop-up daycare centers, in alignment with the guidance set forth by Marin County Public Health Childcare Guidance and the Governor’s Executive Order on childcare, allowed MCOE, in partnership with county agencies, to refine required protocols and use this information to plan for the second phase of its back-to-school effort.
The second phase represented a collaborative approach most directly within MCOE’s control: bringing back small cohorts of students in its special education and alternative education programs. One teacher in particular, MCOE special education instructor Cindy Evans, took note of the lessons learned from the pop-up daycare centers and volunteered to bring her middle school students with special needs back into the classroom.
MCOE’s phase-two experiences prepared staff for the third phase, which is the eventual return of greater numbers of students to the classroom. Staff received training and guidance to follow county public health protocols on workplace safety and will be prepared to return to work when the new state requirements for in-person learning announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 17 are met.
Throughout this process, Superintendent Mary Jane Burke and her team met regularly with MCOE partners, convening daily meetings with the county public health, weekly meetings with the Office of Emergency Services, and biweekly meetings with a larger group of county public health officers. Education leaders also convene on a regular basis, holding weekly, and in some cases, daily meetings with district superintendents; weekly meetings with private, independent, and parochial schools; and biweekly meetings with Bay Area regional county superintendents.
Communications also extended community-wide with Public Health forums addressing schools and answering questions, and a dedicated Rethinking Schools website with resources and trainings.
On August 14, the Marin County Public Health Guided Return to Site-Based Classroom Instruction: Comprehensive School Resource Document was released to support schools.