Dear Alto Community,
I hope you are enjoying this summer, as unusual and tumultuous as it is. I think it's most interesting that typically we yearn for summers to take us away from the routine of our lives.  But if you are like me, you have spent a good deal of energy wishing for a return to routine and normalcy for this summer and the school year ahead. 
In addition to sending you greetings, the intent of this message is to give you an update on what the start of the new school year COULD look like. I emphasize 'could' because of the ever changing numbers and directions shared by the state and county. The rise in community transmission of COVID-19 has definitely heightened concerns for all of us as we plan for the coming school year. You may have read or heard Governor Newsom's message, where he outlined new guidelines about physically opening schools. Specifically, he announced that both public and private California schools may only open under certain conditions. First, and foremost, the school must not be located in a county that is currently on the state's watch list. (The state's watch list evaluates counties on their COVID-19 severity-based on disease transmission, hospitalization rates, and hospital capacity.) Fortunately, San Mateo County is currently NOT on that list. If this trend continues, Alto will be physically opening its doors for space-based learning to all grade levels on August 19! 
As usual, the  scenarios become rather complicated, but I offer the following points for your information:
  • If San Mateo County is not placed on the watch list, all Alto students (PS-12) will physically report to Alto on August 19.
  • If San Mateo County is placed on the watch list, under current guidelines the preschool will still physically reopen while grades K-12 will begin distance learning.
  • Under the guidelines, if a school is located in a county that is on the watch list, it can request a waiver for its lower school so that students in grades K-5 can physically attend school. Alto will request a waiver if that situation exists. (The process is involved and it does not allow for immediate re-opening.)
  • Once a county has been off the watch list for 14 days, schools can reopen if they meet the guidelines issued by the county.
  • If a school is physically open and the county is then placed on the watch list, the school does not have to close but testing of staff becomes required.
Of course, in addition to the preceding information, once Alto has physically reopened, it will be following the Four Pillars of health and hygiene, face coverings, social distancing and limited gatherings as outlined in my message of June 26. It will also follow the guidelines issued by the California Department of Health designed to maintain the health of students and staff.
We have spent a tremendous amount of time in recent weeks planning for a safe return to the Alto campus and look forward to putting those plans into action. However, Governor Newsom made it clear that the return to school rests with the behavior of the public. We all need to practice the Four Pillars to make a difference in fighting this pandemic. For the moment, these are the most important steps that we all can take toward our return to Alto.
The start of a new school year is a special time for the entire Alto community as we reconnect with friends and make new ones, engage in our classes, and reestablish our  learning routines. Please be assured that the Alto faculty and staff will work to make sure this is as true this year as any other regardless of how we begin the year.
I hope this information helps to clarify the situation as it currently stands. Tomorrow you will be receiving a short survey to complete which will help inform the school about your current thoughts in regards to a physical return to school. 
In partnership,
Drew Alexander