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West Contra Costa schools to reopem

High absences prompt WCCUSD to close schools for two days

on January 6, 2022

With a flare in COVID-19 cases keeping many students and teachers out of school this week, the West Contra Costa Unified School District has decided to shut down on Friday and Monday.

The district will take two “smoke days” that the state allows superintendents to use at their discretion, to deep clean its buildings, Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst said in a news release Wednesday.

Hurst attributed the high absentee rate to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is raging across the country. There were more than 11,300 COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County on Thursday, an increase of about 500 from the day before, according to county Health Services. And the infection rate is particularly high for middle- and high-school-age children.

Children over 12 are required to be vaccinated by Feb. 18 to attend classes in the district.

Q&A: What WCCUSD parents want to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for young kids

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded booster shots to children ages 12 to 15, noting that a booster five months after a second vaccine dose strengthens protection against omicron. Health Services’ data shows about 85% of children in that age group in Contra Costa County are fully vaccinated.

WCCUSD students returned to classrooms Monday after the winter break and what followed has been “a very challenging week,” Hurst said in the release.   

“This is putting an immense strain on our system,” he added. “The rapid spread of the virus requires an aggressive response to ensure safety.”

Last weekend, volunteers helped the district distribute 15,000 antigen test kits to families. And on Tuesday, the district opened three PCR testing sites, encouraging those with positive antigen tests to use the services.

Hurst asked students and staff to get tested before returning to school next Tuesday and to quarantine as much as possible. He urged parents to keep children home if they are exhibiting cold symptoms.

“We will do whatever is necessary and possible to ensure students are safe and school can continue,” Hurst said.

The new testing sites are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, except for next Monday, at the Alvarado Adult School in Richmond, the Ohlone Elementary School campus in Hercules, and the district central office in Richmond. Appointments and registration are required.

More information is on the district website.

Contra Costa County announced Wednesday that beginning Thursday, its guidance on quarantine and isolation for those who have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it will align with the state’s.

Under the new guidance, the isolation period has been cut in half, to five days, for anyone testing positive, as long as they test negative and no longer have symptoms.

The quarantine period for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people exposed to someone with COVID-19 is also five days, with a negative test. Fully vaccinated people who have received a booster, if eligible, do not have to quarantine after exposure but are encouraged to get tested five days after being with someone with the virus.

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