Vaccinations scheduled for educators at Dunbar and Kenwood Schools
Similar to COVID-19 vaccination rollouts for other targeted sectors in Sonoma County and the state of California, vaccinating teachers and staff at Dunbar and Kenwood Elementary Schools has been, as Bob Bales, superintendent of Kenwood School, put it, “a moving target.”
As this story went to press, Kenwood School had tentative plans to vaccinate teachers and staff during the week of Feb. 22. For educators in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD), which oversees Dunbar School, vaccines became available on a limited basis beginning Feb. 8. The vaccinations, facilitated through the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), are reserved for educators aged 70 or older and for teachers and staff of any age who “currently have regular, direct contact with students.” For SVUSD, that means 240 of the district’s 500 (or so) employees are eligible for vaccination, said Andrew Ryan, SVUSD’s human resources director. Given its small size, all employees at Kenwood School are eligible for vaccination, according to Bales.
Vaccination is one of several factors that will facilitate the safe return of students to the Dunbar and Kenwood campuses for inperson learning. Students, teachers, staff, and their families are all considered at higher risk of contagion in the classroom setting, particularly while Sonoma County remains in the purple tier, as defined in the state of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Rates of viral transmission are considered widespread in counties in the purple tier.
While making vaccines available for educators represents a huge step forward in the effort to reopen classrooms, Dunbar and Kenwood Schools must adhere to other criteria set forth by SCOE and the state. Essentially, as long as the county remains in the purple tier schools will remain closed. Once the county moves into the less-restrictive red tier, indicating rates of transmission have moderated, public schools will be permitted to open. Details of school reopening plans can be reviewed on the SVUSD website (www.sonomaschools. org) and the Kenwood School website (www.kenwoodschool.org).
Both SVUSD and Kenwood (its own oneschool district) have outlined alternative scenarios for returning to school. The alternatives allow families to make decisions about how and when their children will attend classes, offering opportunities to continue distance learning or to participate in a hybrid learning model, which enables students to return to campus in small, pod-style cohorts and/or on rotating schedules.
The return date for students of Kenwood School has not been set, said Bales. If plans proceed without a hitch, the hope is that all students, K-6, will be back in their classrooms in early April. In the meantime, he applauded his staff’s “exemplary” work maintaining “rigorous” distance learning programs.
The SVUSD’s Board of Trustees was slated to review a proposed plan to have students in grades TK (transitional kindergarten) to 2 back on campus for hybrid instruction starting March 29 and grades 3-5 starting April 6, according to Ryan. “There are many details to be worked out,” he acknowledged, but also noted that “staff have been preparing for this for 10 months.”
Regarding vaccinations for the rest of SVUSD’s employees, including those at Dunbar who are not included in the first round (Tier I), Ryan said the district anticipates “receiving a greenlight from the county to start Tier II, which is essentially almost all other staff, by the end of the month.” Like Bales, though, Ryan added a caveat: All vaccination plans are “subject to change and [are], quite honestly, outside of our realm of control.”
Ryan also noted that though vaccinations are not required to open campuses, “the increase in access to the vaccine certainly has people feeling better about it and excited to move forward.”