COVID forces shutdown of a SLO County Head Start school. Here’s how long it might be closed

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Cambria’s Early Education Center — the Head Start school and Early Head Start program — closed from Jan. 19 until at least Feb. 1 because of a rising number of confirmed of COVID-19 cases and exposures to the fast-spreading virus.

The shutdown could last longer if more students test positive or are exposed, according to Tala Romero, the center’s supervisor and the Hispanic representative for the North Coast Advisory Council.

She told councilmembers Jan. 19 about the center’s closure and its impact to the students and the working families who now not only have sick or exposed children at home, they also have no child care for their toddlers and preschoolers that are enrolled in the school.

Romero said that six of the school’s 32 students have COVID and because there’s such close contact between the children and the staffers in the small facility, that number could grow and the closure would continue.

Staffers were in a five-day quarantine period starting Jan. 19, because they were all exposed, Romero said, but “a couple of them called today to say they’re not feeling good. I hope they’re feeling better and it doesn’t keep going around so we can get back to work and go back to serving the kids and the families who need it so badly. … It’s a huge impact.”

In the meantime, Romero said by phone Friday that starting Jan. 24, the school “will provide breakfast, lunch and a snack for each enrolled child” and his or her siblings to fill at least one of the gaps caused by the closure of the center.

Once the staff can return, she said, they’ll be “providing lots of activities to the students, doing it via Zoom,” and handing out toys and books to help get the youngsters through the closure.

“The parents understand, but they’re scrambling,” she said. When the pandemic closed the school last year, a lot of those parents and families were out of work because their workplaces were also shut down.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs promote the school readiness of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from low-income families, according to information on the Office of Head Start website at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs/about/head-start.

Other Cambria schools

According to Coast Unified School District attendance records, Cambria Grammar School has had about three times their “normal” amount of absences as compared to a “non-COVID” period, which would have to have been in 2020, since the schools were on remote learning last year.

Santa Lucia Middle School and Coast Union High School have had about double the number of absences (related to COVID or parent calling in sick or relating that a family member is ill).

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