Schools can physically reopen this fall — but only if they’ve been off the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 days. If schools don’t meet this requirement, they have to start the fall with distance learning. The L.A. Unified School District has already announced that it will be opening with distance learning this fall.
Learning in California is non-negotiable, Newsom said, adding that schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic — whether or not they’re physically open. However, safety is also non-negotiable for both staff and students, he said.
The governor laid out five elements of the state’s school pandemic plan:
- Safe in-person school based on local health data
- Mask requirements
- Physical distancing + other adaptations
- Regular testing + dedicated contact tracing
- Rigorous distance learning
All school staff and students in third grade and above must wear masks under the new guidelines. Students in second grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shields, but are not required to do so. The ability to see expressions through face shields is important for younger children, the governor said.
Staff have to maintain at least six feet of distance with other staff and students. The school day should start with symptom checks, Newsom said, and there are expectations around hand washing stations, sanitation and disinfection, and quarantine protocols. Each school site must also have continuity and attendance plans.
There is a requirement to test rotating cohorts of staff regularly, and the state contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools.
When it comes to distance learning, new statewide requirements include:
- 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
The state put out criteria for when schools should close due to COVID-19 after previously reopening for in-person instruction:
- Schools should consult with a public health officer first
- A classroom cohort goes home 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 closes all schools if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period