SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gavin Newsom on Friday set widespread reopening guidelines for California’s private, public and charter schools set to begin the 2020-21 school year next month.
"Today's announcement is very personal to me as a father of four," Newsom said, noting that the Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly, a pediatrician, also has four children. As parents, both said they want their children to be educated and as parents, they want to be able to go back to work.
Newsom said he will announce guidelines for colleges and universities in the near future.
Newsom opened Friday’s briefing by saying California’s bottom line is non-negotiable and schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic whether they are physically open or closed.
He also said students, teachers, staff, and parents prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.
California’s pandemic plan for schools was broken down into 5 parts:
Safe in-person school based on local health data
• Schools can reopen for in-person education when its county has been off the state's monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.
• Schools that don’t meet this requirement must begin the school year with distance learning.
With this, the greater majority of California schools will begin the fall semester online as most counties are listed on the watch list.
Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Orange counties remain on California’s Monitoring List. Newsom referred to Southern California as a "stubborn" part of the state in terms of coronavirus cases.
San Diego and Santa Barbara counties also remain on the list.
• All school staff and students in third grade and above must wear masks.
• Students in 2nd grade and below are encouraged to wear masks or face shields.
Physical distancing and other adaptations
• Staff must maintain 6 feet between each other and with students;
• Hand-washing stations;
• Sanitation and disinfection;
• Quarantine protocols.
Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing
• Staff will be required to test 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 language learners and special education students
Newsom said that the more people who wear masks, physically distance, wash their hands, and minimize mixing are crucial for slowing the spread of the virus and getting kids back in school.
In response to Newsom’s latest school guidelines, Debra Duardo, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools said the “COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for our station, our state, and for our county’s 80 K-12 school districts.”
She also said in a released statement that reads in part:
“While distance instruction is not ideal, I want parents and community members to know that school administrators and teachers are committed to ensuring that learning continues. We will be held to high standards for providing rigorous, meaningful instruction and for meeting students' needs, including nutrition and wellness. We have the support of the California Department of Education, state and county government agencies and other stakeholders who want to make a difference for our students and families.
It will not be easy. We are deeply concerned about the large numbers of students who have not fared well with online instruction or have completely checked out. Most affected are our low-income and Black and Latino students, foster youth and other vulnerable groups. Far too many of our young people were already dealing with the negative effects of trauma, which have only been made worse by school closures and social distancing.”
Newsom also said schools that are open for in-classroom instruction will be required to close under the following circumstances:
• 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 goes home if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest district in the nation, announced the school year will start online. Shortly after, several other Southern California school districts made similar announcements. Some planned to offer hybrid learning, with a combination of remote and distance learning.
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, the California State Board of Education President, said that further guidelines for students with special needs would be released within the coming weeks.
Darling-Hammond said they are exploring how teachers can provide one-on-one or small group instructions for students with special needs and also mentioned the possibility of specified Zoom breakout rooms.
KTVU contributed to this report.