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SAN JOSE – The San Jose Unified School District on Wednesday announced it is extending distance learning through the end of the year, a decision officials say was influenced in part by COVID-19 case counts and inadequate testing and contact tracing.

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make as a district because we know in-person instruction is the best way to serve our students, and we are deeply disappointed that the conditions in our community do not allow us to safely bring our students back to school campuses at this time,” said Superintendent Nancy Albarrán in a letter.

“We are especially concerned for our students that are struggling with distance learning and our most vulnerable students that lack the social support needed to facilitate learning,” she said.

Albarrán said the decision was influenced by a number of “key factors,” including Santa Clara County COVID-19 data. New case counts continue to exceed levels seen in March, when schools were initially closed, and case counts in San Jose are higher than other cities in the county.

The number of confirmed cases in the county stood at 19,683 as of Wednesday evening.

Substantial community spread of the virus was another factor, said Albarrán, adding that “57 percent of new cases in the county come from unknown sources, causing significant difficulty in isolating and tracing positive cases.”

Albarrán also noted that the responsibility of testing students and employees and contact tracing for positive cases is largely placed on schools. The district, which serves more than 30,000 students, does not have adequate funding or manpower to source the number of tests that would be required or provide contact tracing, she said.

The decision also aligns with a local ban on indoor gatherings.

“Santa Clara County continues to prohibit activities such as indoor dining, indoor movies and indoor gatherings while allowing K-12 schools to reopen with no capacity limits or distancing requirements,” Albarrán said. “We cannot reconcile how a school classroom differs from other indoor gatherings.”

With distance learning set to continue through the end of the year, efforts are underway to improve the experience for students and teachers, including technology infrastructure upgrades, more training and support, and reduced screen time.

Check back for updates.

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Author: Jason Green

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