MPCSD's COVID-19 FAQ (Revised 6/2/2020)

  • ATTENTION: Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, MPCSD schools will be closed to the public through the end of the school year on June 12, 2020 pursuant to a state-wide Shelter in Place. The District Office is open Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. for essential services. 


    This MPCSD COVID-19 FAQ document will remain updated and available until the COVID-19 crisis has ended. Check this site regularly for the most up-to-date information from MPCSD staff.  

    San Mateo County Alert System: The number for the San Mateo County Covid-19 Public Call Center is 211. This line is open 24/7 in multiple languages. You may also text "coronavirus" to 211211 for information and updates.


    What is the most recent email communication from Superintendent Burmeister regarding the COVID-19 response? (Revised 6/2/2020) 


    Review Mr. Burmeister's Tuesday, June 2, 2020 communication here.  

    Review Mr. Burmeister's Friday, May 1, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister's Wednesday, April 15, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister's Sunday, April 5, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Wednesday, April 1, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Wednesday, March 25, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Monday, March 23, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Tuesday, March 17, 2020 communication here.  

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Monday, March 16, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Thursday, March 13, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Thursday, March 12, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Wednesday, March 11, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Sunday, March 8, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Thursday, March 5, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Wednesday, March 4, 2020 communication here.

    Review Mr. Burmeister’s Saturday, February 29, 2020 communication here.

    All San Mateo County school districts are coordinating messaging; however, each district has its own unique communication plan and style. In MPCSD, we will send periodic emails when necessary and regularly update this MPCSD COVID-19 FAQ page for up to the minute changes and direction. We will attempt to manage fear by providing emails only when necessary as to support our community in remaining calm, accessing correct information, and focusing on controlling what we can control. 


    I need help during this time with food and other resources. Does MPCSD have assistance for me and my family? (Added 4/5/2020)

    MPCSD has launched a webpage called MPCSD Helps to connect people who need assistance with support, and give guidance to those wishing to donate resources. Please visit MPCSD Helps for more information. If you need help or have questions please email


    MPCSD's COVID-19 Response Team (C19 Team) is planning for the 2020-21 school year. Please reference the following questions regarding reopening plans. (Section added 6/2/2020)


    What is the C19 Team's recommendation for school reopening on August 20, 2020?
    The C19 Team recommends a model for school in which students attend in-person instruction, every other week in small (approximately 12 students each), stable cohorts with social distancing and other health and safety measures.
    Is the C19 Team’s recommendation a final decision and how can I provide feedback? 
    No. The recommendation is just that, a recommendation. It will be shared at the regularly scheduled Board meeting this Thursday, June 4, 2020 that begins at 6:00 p.m. The Board will receive direct input over the course of the next week and a half. They will hear the recommendation of the COVID-19 Response Team, call for public comment, and discuss the recommendation themselves. At the June 11, 2020 regularly scheduled Board meeting, members will vote on a resolution that will be drafted following the June 4 meeting. To attend the June 4 meeting via Zoom, please click here. To offer public comment prior to or during the June 4 meeting, email To reach the Board directly outside of public comment, email
    How did the C19 Team come to the conclusion that the alternating week model was better than other models that could have been considered? 
    The C19 Team did not start out with the intention of recommending only one model; rather, it began deliberations with the goal of identifying all feasible models. As the team considered all the reopening options, the alternating week option rose to the top due to its ability to most effectively mitigate the unavoidable risks of conducting school during a pandemic. Simply put, the members of the C19 Team unanimously feel that the alternating week model provides the safest manner in which to return to school. With confidence in its process and outcome, the Team is making the recommendation in order that the harder and more time-consuming work of figuring out all the logistics can continue at both the district and site levels. 
    What makes the alternating week model the clear favorite of the members of the C19 Team? 
    The C19 Team evaluated multiple models against health and safety, instructional/learning benefit, equity, mental health, operations, impact on parents/staff, and other metrics. Some of the reasons the team chose the alternating week model are as follows:
    • The model allows MPCSD to most effectively implement the yet-unpublished San Mateo County Pandemic Recovery Framework. The Framework, of which the team had an advance draft copy, and to which the public will soon have access, is based on “Four Pillars.” They are: Health and Hygiene; Face Coverings; Physical Distancing; and Limited Gatherings. Additionally, the Framework calls for students to be served in “stable cohorts,” with the number of students defined by the ability to appropriately socially distance within the available square footage. The alternating week model can well accommodate this requirement. 
    • The model allows MPCSD to bring students back to school for a meaningful amount of in-person instruction. For MPCSD to adhere to the County’s Framework, especially with regards to Physical Distancing, there is no feasible way to have all enrolled students on our campuses at one time (yes, even if we conducted classes outside). Due to the large enrollment, facility size, and staffing limitations, we simply aren’t able to provide daily in-person instruction to each student and follow the Four Pillars. 
    • In the team's estimation, the model is the safest choice for MPCSD. No model eliminates risk; bringing students and staff back to campus is inherently more risky than continuing 100% with Distance Learning. However, we must weigh the risk of reopening with the risk of continuing to have our students isolated at home, away from their friends, receiving instruction with limited coaching and support. Thus, if we are going to take on increased risk, we want to mitigate those risks to the best of our ability. The alternating week model will allow us to clean more thoroughly between groups, more easily trace contacts should someone within a group test positive for COVID-19, and more effectively contain the virus from spreading within and among groups sharing the same space. 
    • The model is closely related to an idea that the C19 Team felt has real merit. On May 11, 2020, an opinion piece ran in the New York Times, written by three prominent scholars in systems biology and economics, promoting a way to reopen work, schools, and other institutions by instituting what they referred to as the 10:4 strategy: ten days at home on lockdown and four days at work or in school. While this model is impossible for us to achieve with 100% fidelity, some elements of the model are reflected in our alternating week approach in the hopes that we can exploit the latent period of the virus - the three-day delay on average between the time a person is infected and the time she or he can infect others. 
    • The model provides academic benefit. The continuity of a week of school allows every teacher and student to have a necessary and solid block of time to introduce a unit or new concept, practice, and provide feedback. Teachers can plan cohesive learning arcs for each week, reinforced by at-home practice, specialist (art, music, etc.) programming, and small group video support provided by classroom aides and paraprofessionals on off-weeks. 
    • The model provides social-emotional and mental health benefits. Teachers and staff are better able to develop relationships and build community in a solid week, whereas other models felt disjointed for both mental health and home routines. 
    • The model will enable MPCSD to increase or decrease the amount of time for students on campus should future health orders change. An analogy you will hear MPCSD staff refer to over the course of this pandemic is the idea of “the dial” vs. “the switch.” Our responses will need to roll with the health conditions in the county like a dial, rather than turn on and off in a binary manner like a switch. The alternating-week model allows us the greatest flexibility and the least amount of disruption. To this end, it is certainly possible that despite all this planning, come August the health conditions require us to change course all together. 
    • The model is simple and straightforward. At a time when there is so much chaos and uncertainty, having the steady cadence of the alternating-week model will hopefully offer some much needed calm in the middle of the storm. It is easy to explain and easy to implement.
    What resources will be available for parents who have to work full time and do not have childcare for their children? 
    Probably the most pressing question from parents for any one of the modified schedules is what options will be available for childcare. The C19 Team is incredibly sensitive to this issue and feels fortunate MPCSD has the capacity to actually attempt to address the issue. There is still much we don’t know, but the Board and Superintendent are committed to making childcare solutions a top priority. It’s important to note that ANY option, short of bringing all students back to school full time, which is impossible under the county’s Framework, would involve time away from school when students would normally be in school. Below is a preview of what is being considered, but nothing is confirmed. 
    • Some specialized programs will be allowed to operate every week. Due to the unique staffing nature of the Early Learning Center and some self-contained Special Education programs, such as AIMS at Encinal and Hillview, we are able to offer these programs every week for the same students. 
    • Due to MPCSD’s commitment to equity and the San Mateo County Framework’s expectation that planning be built around those students with the “most urgent learning needs,” MPCSD will design some academic programs for students who require additional support on the off-weeks. Doing so will be contingent on health orders at the time of implementation, but we will plan for support of our most academically vulnerable students. 
    • MPCSD has already begun planning with our valued after-school care provider, Newton Center Inc. It is our expectation that Newton will be able to offer fee-based child care for all families who do not have child care availability at home. Fee-reduction and scholarships will be available for families that qualify. 
    • We will be working with parents at the site level to envision and realize child care sharing options in our neighborhoods through our extensive volunteer networks. 
    • MPCSD is discussing models and pursuing partnerships with community organizations that would offer child care and academic programs on off-weeks for our families who live in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven within their communities.
    One need we have identified as we pursue child care options is the physical space. All MPCSD schools are at capacity in enrollment, thus we will very likely need additional spaces to offer child care options. If you know of churches or other community-based facilities that may be interested in offering space to the district at a low cost for childcare, please email
    What if I do not feel comfortable sending my child to school in person? 
    Parents who choose not to send their child(ren) to school will not be prevented from or judged for doing so. While we hope that we have made all the necessary accommodations to mitigate risk, we understand that some parents will not send their children out of legitimate health and safety concerns. As such, parents and students will be supported by a Distance Learning program similar to the one that has been delivered this spring. We can not guarantee what it will look like, but it will be available. It is likely that due to planning restrictions, a choice for Distance Learning may extend for a defined period of time; in other words, we may not be able to guarantee that a child can switch from Distance Learning to in-person learning within the middle of a trimester. In the next week or so, all parents will receive another survey--this one is the most important one of them yet. This survey will ask you to indicate your current thinking, as best as you can determine, regarding whether you intend to send your child back to school in person in the fall. Please take the time to complete the survey as this information is invaluable to us as we plan for providing high quality programs. 
    For those attending in person on alternating weeks, what will the week at home look like? 
    We don’t yet know; however, we have a sense that it will be independent learning that serves as an extension of and practice with the learning that occurred the previous week during in-person instruction. Additionally, MPCSD will make use of instructional aides, interventionists, and specialists to support extended learning at home. It will not look like the Distance Learning you have come to know this year in that main classroom teachers will be teaching the other half of their classes when your student is at home. We will ensure a reasonable pace, engaging activities, virtual connection opportunities with classmates, useful technology tools, and redesigned expectations for a manageable, and hopefully enjoyable, experience. 
    Will MPCSD make efforts to accommodate my family’s needs when scheduling? 
    Yes. We will make every effort to make our plan manageable for our families. The first commitment we will make to you is that all siblings will be scheduled on the same alternating week, unless otherwise requested by parents. Beyond that, we are open to your input regarding your needs, and if the health orders and our infrastructure allow it, we will make every effort to accommodate family needs. Your patience in waiting until the program is actually designed is greatly appreciated. 
    One of my questions isn't answered in this FAQ; how do I get an answer to my question(s)?
    The C19 Team respectfully asks that you remain patient as details are completed. If your question isn’t answered here, it is likely something for which we don’t yet have the answer. Again, this recommendation to the Board is simply the starting point of a long and detailed process. Transportation, Special Education services, health and safety requirements (including face mask requirements), class placement, lunch and recess, curriculum and instruction, electives/specialists, volunteering--all of these areas and more are areas we just aren’t prepared to address at this time. Once the Board makes its decision, we will move with all expediency and diligence. In the meantime, please have confidence that our team will approach reopening with as much care, communication, creativity and professionalism as we have approached this entire pandemic.


    Are MPCSD schools closed and for how long? (Revised 4/7/2020)

    As of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, MPCSD schools are closued to the public pursuant to San Mateo County Health's Order to Shelter in Place. The District Office is open Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. for essential services. This plan remains in effect through the end of the 2019-20 school year; see San Mateo County Office of Education's announcement here. Learning at MPCSD continues with our Distance Learning Plan that allows students to stay on track with their learning for the remainder of the school year. 


    What events, if any, will or has MPCSD canceled in light of the COVID-19 outbreak? (Revised 4/1/2020)
    MPCSD schools will be closed effective Monday, March 17, 2020 through the end of the 2019-20 school year (see previous question). All on-campus events are now cancelled through June 12, 2020. 


    How is Special Education being provided during school closure? (Added 3/25/2020)
    MPCSD is designing individual distance learning plans for each of our special education students. The district continues to receive guidance from county and state leaders about the provision of special education services. The most recent information released on March 21, 2020 from the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, states: It is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented national emergency.  Please read more from San Mateo County Office of Education here.


    What can I do to help out the MPCSD and broader community during this time? (Updated 4/6/2020)
    Care and compassion for our neighbors abound right now. MPCSD has a small but mighty team of staff delivering school lunches and additional groceries to our most vulnerable families. We have also launched a new page MPCSD Helps with more detailed information on how you can help our community.


    Please join the MPCSD team in wearing cloth face covers to protect our community when we are out in public. All essential staff working at MPCSD sites are now wearing face coverings in addition to practicing social distance. More information about the benefits of face coverings can be found at the CDC's website.


    Here are some addtional local acengies that welcome your support now: 


    What should I do if I or my child test positive for COVID-19, suspect I or my child might have it, or suspect I or my child have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19? (Revised 3/16/2020)

    MPCSD is closing schools to students as of March 16 to help our community slow the spread of COVID-19. However, it is still important for us to know if anyone in our community contracts COVID-19. MPCSD is receiving clear guidance from both the San Mateo County Health Department and the California Department of Public Health and is asking YOU to assist is following these communication guidelines:


    Confirmed COVID-19 Diagnosis

    If an MPCSD student, staff, or parent tests positive for COVID-19, the patient or patient’s family is asked to contact the Superintendent’s Office immediately. We expect all staff and parents to notify the school district at the first sign of a positive diagnosis for COVID-19. It is likely that the San Mateo Health Department will also notify the School District; however, please don’t rely on them to do so. 


    Primary Contact with Person COVID-19 Positive

    If an MPCSD student, staff, or parent has confirmed contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, the person associated with MPCSD must immediately notify their site supervisor who will notify the Superintendent’s Office. 


    Secondary and Tertiary Contact with Person COVID-19 Positive

    At this stage in the virus’s spread, more and more individuals are likely to have secondary and tertiary contact with someone suspected of being COVID-19 positive. This is not unusual in a public health emergency of this kind. If an MPCSD student, staff, or parent believes or knows that he/she has had secondary or tertiary contact with someone suspected of carrying the COVID-19 virus, that individual (or their parent) is asked to contact the school site supervisor immediately. When schools re-open, the Site Supervisor or a representative from the Superintendent’s Office will engage the potential contact in a question protocol based on recommendations provided the San Mateo County Health Department prior to being allowed to return to school/work. 


    For more guidance on possible exposure, please see the CDC's COVID-19 information site.

    What is “coronavirus” and what is COVID-19; how are they different? (Revised 3/7/2020)

    Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China." The World Health Organization has additional information about the disease and the virus. Coronavirus is an umbrella term. There are many strains of coronavirus and the diseases they cause. The current situation relates specifically to COVID-19. From here forward, this document will refer to COVID-19. 


    How is the District managing the decision making and communication regarding COVID-19? (Added 3/4/2020)

    Superintendent Burmeister has assembled a COVID-19 Response Team that includes leads from the following different parts of the organization. The Response Team meets daily under the direction of Superintendent Burmeister. The team is privy to the latest information from local and state officials. 

    • School Board
    • Site Administration
    • Health and Nursing
    • Custodial & Transportation Services
    • Curriculum & Instruction
    • Student Services
    • Human Resources
    • Communication
    • Operations


    What are the dangers to children and how might they be different than for adults? (Added 2/29/2020)

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided these answers as it relates to children and COVID-19.


    What PRECAUTIONS can I take to help avoid contracting COVID-19 or exposing my children to it? (Added 2/29/2020)

    The SMC Health Department and other health officials are clear that the same precautions you would use for the seasonal flu, you should employ to guard against COVID-19. As recommended by San Mateo County Health:

    1. Cover your cough and sneeze. 
    2. Wash your hands frequently. 
    3. Avoid shaking hands and touching your face with unwashed hands. 
    4. If you are not feeling well or are experiencing cold, flu, or other symptoms, contact your primary care provider and stay home from school or work.
    5. Like washing your hands, wearing a surgical mask may help a bit but you need to know that surgical masks don’t offer much protection when they are worn by people who are well. They are most helpful when worn by those who are already sick, so that they are less likely to transmit the disease to others. Surgical masks are already in short supply and should be prioritized for use in health care settings.
    6. You should use a barrier, such as a paper towel or tissue, to touch commonly touched surfaces, such as bathroom door handles or elevator buttons.


    What can I do to PREPARE my family and me for COVID-19’s future spread? (Added 2/29/2020)

    There is no way of knowing how COVID-19 will spread, who has it, and if or how someone will get it. The virus situation changes by the hour. As of February 28, 2020 confirmed cases are limited, but growing. The first confirmed cases of “community transmission” have been reported in the area, thus resulting in changes to how the virus’s spread will be approached. 


    The most important thing that you can do besides regular flu precautions is to PREPARE for infection and/or the impacts of infection. You can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for suggestions on preparing your home and life; Dr. Scott Morrow of SMC Health Department recommends asking yourself these questions:

    1. How will I take care of myself if I become sick?
    2. How will I take care of my family if they become sick?
    3. If school needs to be canceled for some reason, what child care would I need to arrange? 
    4. What supplies might I need to stock up on that are readily available in case the supply chain is interrupted for some reason? 


    Some other questions you might ask yourself are:

    1. Do I have an ample supply of my daily medications, critical meds, and any medications that would be necessary to treat symptoms of the flu? (Example: adult and children’s acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or cough medicine.)
    2. Is my earthquake kit up to date and ready to go in as much as it has general emergency supplies that might be of help? (Of course, having supplies beyond the typical earthquake kit is a good idea. What you decide to have on hand is based on your individual and family situation.)


    Knowing answers to these questions prior to an elevated situation will go a long way to ensuring your comfort and safety in a myriad of scenarios. A community resource that may be helpful is: Pandemic Preparedness COVID-19 Update: Citizen’s Guide, also available in Spanish here.


    What is one of the biggest dangers in a potential or confirmed “pandemic” situation and how can I manage this danger? (Added 2/29/2020)

    Humans often manage communication using “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons observe the behavior and emotion of others (or the news media) and our brains react by mirroring the emotion. Understanding this, it is important to manage our mirror neurons in times of heightened fear to protect ourselves from becoming susceptible to inaccurate or emotionally-charged information. There is a lot of fear due to the unknown. We can de-escalate our mirror neurons by staying calm, remaining informed, and controlling what we have control over (such as precaution and preparation). The more we can manage our mirror neurons, the more logically we can respond. 


    Remember that children’s “mirror neurons” are also in full effect. If we approach information in a calm, informed, age appropriate manner, we are most likely to help our children manage any potential fear or confusion. 


    How should I talk to my child about COVID-19? (Revised 3/5/2020)

    There is no "right way" to talk to your child about hard subjects. Every child and every family is different. MPCSD school counselors (funded thanks to your generous donations to the One Community Campaign) and your amazing classroom teachers are available daily to receive your emails of concern should your child be experiencing acute anxiety around COVID-19. Please feel free to reach out. Here are some resources you may find helpful as you talk to your child:


    How is MPCSD handling family travel and/or new students during the COVID-19 threat? (Revised 3/4/2020)

    Schools are closed through at least April 7. When schools re-open, schools cannot limit or control the travel or registration of any family; travel restrictions are the responsibility of the federal government. However, MPCSD will take the proper and legal precautions to ensure the health and safety of its students and staff. MPCSD will refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel guidelines, which categorize countries by level of COVID-19 transmission. Travel from any country identified by the CDC as "Level 3" (widespread community transmission, avoid non-essential travel) will result in greater screening practices prior to attending school. These practices may include: 

    • A 14-day self quarantine, and
    • A note from the primary care physician attesting the good health of the student or staff member. 

    MPCSD remains a welcoming place respectful of its role as a public institution. No student, staff, or family should experience prejudice, judgment, or innuendo due to their travel history, especially knowing that MPCSD is fulfilling its obligation to ensure the health and well being of all students, staff, and families.


    What local, state, or national communication has the district received and provided to parents through this COVID-19 FAQ? (Revised 3/8/2020)


    What additional resources might parents be interested in for information? (Revised 3/7/2020)


    Who should I contact at the District if I have questions or information? (Revised 3/5/2020)

    Please know that we have access to the most updated information and news. While we appreciate the articles and resources you send, we feel confident we are getting the information we need.


    If you have questions or information about your own child’s health, please contact your school’s office. 


    If you have questions or information about this FAQ or about MPCSD’s COVID-19 response in general, please email This email is monitored daily, however please understand that we may not respond to your message individually.


    How often should I check MPCSD’s COVID-19 FAQ? (Added 2/29/2020)

    As often as you feel necessary. The information will be maintained daily and the most current information will be included in the document. If important information is shared that parents need to know, we will email you to alert you to additions or changes to the COVID-19 FAQ. MPCSD will provide the most up-to-date links from local, state, and national officials in this FAQ.