SACRAMENTO (KRON) – Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday laid out strict criteria for school reopenings that makes it unlikely the vast majority of districts will have classroom instruction in the fall as the coronavirus pandemic surges.
“Learning is non-negotiable, and schools must provide meaningful education during this pandemic,” Newsom said.
He added that while students, teachers, staff and parents prefer in-classroom instruction, it can only be done if it is done so safely. That safety is determined by local health data.
“Safety is foundational,” he said.
Newsom unveiled a 5-point “pandemic plan” for schools:
- Safe in-person school based on local health data
– Using health data, schools can physically open when its county has been off the state watch list for 14 consecutive days
– Schools that do not meet this requirement must begin the school year with distance learning
- Mask requirements
– All school staff and students in third grade and above must wear face mask
– Students in 2nd grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shields
- Physical distancing and other adaptations
– Staff must maintain 6 ft. between each other and with students
– Symptom checks
– Hand washing stations
– Sanitation and disinfection
– Quarantine protocols
- Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing
– Requirement to test staff regularly
– State contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools
- Rigorous distance learning
– Access to devices and connectivity for all children
– 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
The guidelines will apply to both public and private schools, as well as those on the state’s COVID-19 watch list.
The guidance lays out in detail when classrooms and schools would have to close if there is an outbreak. If a student or educator test positive for the virus, a classroom would have to close and the students and teacher would quarantine for 14 days. An entire school should revert to distance learning if it reports multiple cases, or 5 percent of students and staff test positive within a 14-day period.
The following Bay Area counties are included on the state’s monitoring list for 3+ days:
- Contra Costa
- Santa Clara
Right now many Bay Area counties have already announced distance learning will be used for the upcoming fall semester.
School districts in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Brentwood, and Marin have already announced plans for online starts to the fall semester.
The governor’s strict new regulations marked a dramatic shift from his earlier position that it was up to local school districts and boards to decide when and how to reopen. His announcement comes just weeks before many of the state’s 1,000 school districts return to classes in mid-August, with many still finalizing their reopening plans.
With school districts struggling over the decision, teachers unions, parents and school officials have urged state leaders for more direction on whether it is safe to go back to school. The state this week reported its second-highest one day totals in infection rates and deaths since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 7,400 have died in California – more than 1,100 of them in the last two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.