Gov. Newsom announced a new mandate that schools must be in a county that has been off the monitoring list for 14 days or more before reopening for in-person education.
If the county the school district resides in is on the state monitoring list for 14 days or more, that district must open the school year with distance learning.
“Our students, our teachers, staff and certainly parents, we all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons,” Gov. Newsom said during a press conference on Friday. “But only if it can be done safely.”
Newsom’s new requirements come during a period that school districts across the state had begun to grapple with how to approach the upcoming school year.
Patterson Joint Unified School District had agreed to delay the beginning of the upcoming school year to Sept. 8. The district opted for the delay to see if the county’s COVID-19 cases would decrease and allow the district more flexibility to provide in-person learning opportunities for their students.
Stanislaus is one of 32 counties currently on the state monitoring list.
Gov. Newsom shared five requirements for all schools to consider and adhere to this upcoming school year.
Safe in-person school based on local health data
Physical distancing and other adaptions
Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing
Rigorous distance learning
“Safety is foundational, and safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids as we move into the fall and work our way through this pandemic,” Newsom said.
Schools that are approved to offer in-person education through the above stipulations will still have additional restrictions provided by the state that will require campuses to suspend activity if certain thresholds are surpassed.
In-person education must require:
A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed case
A school goes home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than five percent of the school is positive
A district goes home if 25 percent of their students are closed within a 14-day period
Gov. Newsom’s new orders will require that all school staff and students in third grade and above must wear masks.
Students in second grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shields, but not required.
The state will expect physical distancing and other adaptions.
Physical distancing requirements include:
Staff must maintain six feet between each other and with students
Hand washing stations
Sanitation and disinfection
Regular testing of staff must be required, and the state contract tracing workforce will prioritize schools during the upcoming school year to aid with tracing efforts that may arise.
“Education broadly is about our kids, but we can not deny the fact that we have hundreds and thousands of adults that are responsible for taking care and educating our kids as well, and their health has to be considered,” Gov. Newson said.
It was also announced that school districts must provide access to devices and connectivity for all kids to provide daily interaction with teachers and other students.
Gov. Newsom stipulated that distance learning must provide challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes and to provide adapted lessons for English language learners and special education students.
“Cleary, we have work to do to make sure that we are doing rigorous distance learning, but this is the predicate. These are the expectations that we have,” said Newsom.
The governor acknowledged that it would be preferable to host in-person instruction, but with the circumstances surrounding the spread of the virus that officials and educators must do their best to provide quality distance learning education.
“We want to create some sense of equivalency with the obvious constraints that is distance learning,” he said.
Newsom shared that the state has invested $5.3 billion in additional funding with a priority on equity.
President of the California Board of Education Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond stated that despite the difficulties and challenges ahead, educators in the state are better equipped than when schools were forced to close this spring abruptly.
“We do have an infrastructure where the county offices work directly with the districts in their counties and they’re getting a lot of support from both of these agencies from the state level and they’re also then in touch at the county level with public health,” Dr. Darling-Hammond said. “We’re in a much better position going into the school year in every county and district to support the needs of children than we were in the spring.”