The California Department of Education has released a how-to manual for school districts across the state to plan how to safely reopen for the 2020-21 school year.
The 55-page document published Monday offers guidance to county and local school districts as they prepare for students and school employees to resume in-person classes on campus in light of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Titled “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools,” it discusses physical distancing, recommended use of personal protective equipment, options for school schedules, cleaning, and employee issues.
Schools in Tracy and Mountain House and all across the state and country closed abruptly in mid-March. The initial temporary closures were extended through the end of the 2019-20 school year as state and local governments responded to COVID-19 with stay-at-home orders.
Looking forward to the next school year, TUSD is slated to begin classes Aug. 6. Jefferson and Banta school districts are set to begin Aug. 11. In Lammersville Unified School District in Mountain House, classes will start Aug. 13. Tracy Learning Center charter schools are scheduled to resume Aug. 3, the earliest of the local schools.
The new state guidebook is not a mandate or “one-size-fits-all.” Instead, it provides checklists, questions and examples of best practices, and states that “the intent of this document is to be a guide for local discussion on reopening schools.”
These are some of the Department of Education’s recommendations:
• Use no-touch thermometers to screen every teacher and staff member entering campus and each student arriving at school or boarding a bus.
• Have teachers, staff members and students wash or sanitize their hands when entering the campus or a bus.
• Limit access to campus by parents and visitors.
• Determine how many students can fit into each classroom while keeping 6 feet between desks.
• Follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and require all school employees to wear either cloth face masks or face shields. Have students wear cloth face coverings as well, especially if they cannot maintain physical distancing.
The state’s guidance also proposes several alternative school schedules, including the following options:
• A two-day in-person class rotation based on grade level
• A blended schedule where half of the school’s students would attend class in person four days on a given week and then are assigned to distance learning the next week.
• A looping structure where students would stay with the same teacher for multiple grade levels.
• A staggered schedule with grade levels grouped together for “early” or “late” start and dismissal times. Such a schedule would accommodate multiple recesses and lunch periods and multiple meal distribution points.