South Bay school leader tests positive for COVID-19 after in-person meeting
Santa Clara Unified School District leaders handed out meals to families in March when the shelter-in-place orders began. Photo courtesy of SCUSD.

Nearly 40 school principals with the Santa Clara Unified School District were forced to attend an in-person meeting last month amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and one education leader tested positive for COVID-19.

Sources told San José Spotlight this week that Superintendent Stella Kemp required principals to show up in person — despite other leaders using Zoom for virtual meetings to stay socially distanced — and that she didn’t wear a face covering. The meeting was to discuss a plan for reopening schools.

A district spokeswoman, however, insisted that Kemp wore a mask and that administrators took every step possible to protect the educators.

“We implement social distancing protocols, including requiring our employees to conduct a self-symptom check and staying home when unwell, wearing face masks, and maintaining six-foot social distance from others,” Jennifer Dericco told San José Spotlight on Monday. “We also offer our high-risk staff members the opportunity to participate remotely via Zoom.”

Dericco said the in-person meeting was required because of “the complexity required in the development of our fall reopening plans.”

Despite the efforts to keep people safe, Dericco said one of the members on the leadership team tested positive for COVID-19 in the days following the meeting. No one else who attended the meeting has tested positive, she added, though the principals are in quarantine now.

“Since then we have cleaned and sanitized the meeting location and all attendees received a notice with direction to contact their health care provider for further direction, including being tested for the virus,” Dericco said.

The news comes as Santa Clara County officials on Tuesday released guidance for reopening K-12 public and private schools. The guidelines include spacing desks six feet apart, requiring face coverings for everyone and canceling some activities such as choir.

But the biggest question on parents’ minds after months of home-schooling is when kids can get back to school in Santa Clara County. The answer is unclear.

“It will depend on the containment of COVID-19 in the months to come,” Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody explained during a news conference Tuesday. “As I mentioned before, we are monitoring a number of factors.”

Dericco said every district and county public health department is facing this dilemma as officials determine whether they might reopen campuses to students and staff in the fall — and how they’ll keep everyone safe from the contagious disease.

“We are trying to figure out how to best keep our students and staff safe in an environment where the vast majority of things that are happening around us during this pandemic are out of our control,” Dericco said. “We know there may be some that are questioning every decision we make, but the reality is that there is no road map to this pandemic. Our county health officials, who we rely on for information and guidance, are also facing this reality.”

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