Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday the schools can open in person if their county has been off the state’s coronavirus watchlist for two consecutive weeks. Schools that do not meet this requirement must start the school year with distance learning.
EdSource reported, the California Department of Public Health will play a strong role in setting the criteria for reopening school facilities. Getting off the state’s county monitoring list does not mean that a district will automatically get to hold class in person. That decision would still be left up to local officials, typically in consultation with their teachers’ unions.
“Today’s announcement is very personal to me as a father of four,” Newsom said, noting that the Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, a pediatrician, also has four children. As parents, both said they want their children to be educated and as parents, they want to be able to go back to work.
With 1,000 school districts in California, the state has invested $5.3 billion in additional funding with priority on equity.
Newsom shared the following plan for schools as he expressed, “Learning is non-negotiable, but neither is safety.”
Safe-in Person School Based on Local health data
- Using health data, schools can physically open when its county has been off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Schools that don’t meet this requirement must start the school year distance learning
- All school staff and students in 3rd grade and above must wear masks
- Students in 2nd grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shield
Physical Distancing and Other Adaptation
- Staff must maintain 6 ft between each other and with students
- Symptom checks
- Hand washing stations
- Sanitation and disinfection
- Quarantine protocols
Testing and Contact Tracing
- Requirement to test staff regular
- State contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools
Rigorous Distance Learning
- Access to devices and connectivity for all kids
- Daily live interaction with teachers and other students
- Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes
- Adapted lessons for English language learners and special education students
When Should In-Person Learning Close?
- Schools should consult with a public health officer first
- A classroom cohort goes homes when there is a confirmed case
- A school goes home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5% of the school is positive
- A district goes homes if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14 day period
Addressing concerns of learning loss if distance learning continues, Newsom said, “If we’re going to have distance learning and we will…make sure it’s rigorous.”
He continued, “Students, teachers, staff, and parents prefer in-classroom instruction – but only if it can be done safely.”
Newsom closed with optimism saying he hoped some of the counties will drop off the watchlist and can open in person.
Watch the full press conference here.