(Photo via MChe Lee/Flickr)

Schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District will continue with distance learning at least into March, the district superintendent said Wednesday night.

With no known date for the lifting of the “purple tier” restrictions in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy COVID-19 response plan, the school district has no choice but to continue distance learning for the immediate future, district Superintendent Adam Clark told the school board Wednesday. Schools that are already closed cannot reopen under purple tier rules.

On Thursday, in a letter to Mount Diablo district parents, Clark said, “This is not where we had hoped to be right now, but it is the reality of the pandemic in our area.”

The school board on Oct. 26 had approved a hybrid virtual/classroom plan that would have had kindergarteners, first-graders, sixth-graders and ninth-graders do their first in-class learning this week, on Jan. 11. Second-, third-, seventh- and 10th graders were to have it on Jan. 19; and fourth-, fifth-, eighth-, 11th and 12th-graders on Jan. 25.

“I know that there are a lot of frustrated and angry parents out there, and I know a lot in the community are suffering,” said school board member Keisha Nzewi at Wednesday night’s board meeting. “It’s a balance we have to make.”

In a report to the school board Wednesday, Clark noted that the pandemic and its consequences were having a “disproportionate impact” on Black, Latinx and low-income students. He then said the district will start a student mental health panel, with virtual outreach planned to start the week of Jan. 25. Clark also said an anti-bias/anti-racist committee is being created to build upon existing efforts to enact racism and equity issues.

Fellow board member Erin McFerrin said she welcomes both the anti-bias/anti-racist committee and the mental health panel. She said she hopes the mental health outreach will continue beyond the end of January.

“I don’t feel optimistic about a hybrid model improving mental health for students,” McFerrin said.

The Mount Diablo Unified School District has schools in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, Bay Point and parts of Walnut Creek, Martinez and Pittsburg.

Other Contra Costa County school districts, including San Ramon Valley, Walnut Creek, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch and West Contra Costa, are also continuing with distance learning exclusively in the near term.