CASH Alert: Governor Newsom Outlines CA’s COVID-19 Plan for Schools
On Friday, July 17, Governor Newsom used his daily press conference to release new mandates and revised guidance pertaining to the criteria for schools to close in-person instruction and provide distance learning, and when they can reopen. The immediate effect is that all schools located in a county on the state COVID-19 watchlist must start the school year in distance learning. While the list changes daily, it has held steady at approximately 32 of California’s 58 counties being included.
The following is a summary of the plan as announced by the Governor. Below, you will find highlights from related documents released today and links to the full documents.
In his opening and closing comments, Newsom affirmed that “Learning is nonnegotiable. Safety is not,” and that “Schools must provide meaningful instruction, whether physically open or not.” Students, teachers, staff, and parents prefer in-class instruction but only if it can be done safely in accordance with local health data.
California Pandemic Plan for Schools
- Safe in-person school based on local health data
- School can physically open when county is off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days
- Schools that don’t meet this requirement must begin the school year in distance learning
- Mask requirements
- All school staff and students in 3rd grade and above must wear a mask
- Students in 2nd grade and below are encouraged to wear mask or shield
- Physical distancing and other adaptations
- Staff must maintain at least 6 ft distance between each other and with students
- Symptom checks
- Hand washing stations
- Sanitation and disinfections
- 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 kids
- Daily live interaction with teachers and other students
- Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes
- Adapted lessons for English learners and special education students
The Governor noted that local educational agencies (LEAs) should be mindful of homeless, foster, English Learner and special education students, and cited the $5.3 billion in the State Budget intended to mitigate learning loss and to prioritize equity. He stated these funds can also be used for acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) and to improve connectivity.
When should in-person learning close?
- Schools should consult with a public health officer first
- A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed case. Mandated
- A school goes home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5% of school is positive. Mandated
- A district goes home if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period. Mandated
These closure criteria apply to both public and private schools. The Governor stated that “Public education is absolutely about kids but we have to consider the hundreds of thousands of adults that take care of our kids.”
New Mandated Criteria
The California Department of Public Health has released a five-page memo titled COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning: Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year. The memo provides clear responses to questions such as:
- What are the in-person re-opening criteria?
- Who should be tested and how often?
- What measures should be taken when a student, teacher or staff member has symptoms, is a contact of someone infected, or is diagnosed with COVID-19?
- What are the criteria for closing a school?
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Occupational Safety Health Administration (CalOSHA) also released revised guidance in 19-page document titled COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School- Based Programs. This document now incorporates the mandates above and provides additional detail on the implementation of various practices including:
- General Measures
- Promote Healthy Hygiene Practices
- Face Coverings
- Ensure Teacher and Staff Safety
- Intensify Cleaning, Disinfection, and Ventilation
- Implementing Distancing Inside and Outside the Classroom
- Limit Sharing
- Train All Staff and Educate Families
- Check for Signs and Symptoms
- Plan for When a Staff Member, Child or Visitor Becomes Sick
- Maintain Healthy Operations
- Considerations for Reopening and Partial or Total Closures
Taken as a whole, these new mandates and guidance will be received as both a welcome sense of clarity by some LEAs and an infringement on local authority by others. Regardless, they bring greater uniformity to the public school response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please remain engaged with CASH communications as we develop support for the implementation of these new rules.
Nancy Chaires Espinoza
CASH Legislative Advocate