State Superintendent Tony Thurmond on Monday unveiled the California Department of Education’s highly anticipated guidance for reopening campuses, recommending face coverings, physical distancing and regular symptom screening for students and staff.
During a morning briefing, Thurmond acknowledged that districts are working collaboratively with county health officials as they develop their own plans and procedures for resuming operations in the fall. He said he anticipates many will offer hybrid models that feature in-person instruction and distance learning.
“As our students return, schools will have to look dramatically different for their own safety and for the opportunity to accelerate learning,” the state superintendent said. “We know that guidance is only as good as its implementation, so think of this as the beginning of the conversation — not the end.”
The CDE’s recommendations, he said, are not intended to impose a one-size-fit-all approach on campuses. Instead, the 55-page document titled “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools” includes checklists, essential questions for consideration, and examples of best practices that can be discussed at the local level.
The guide says students should use cloth face coverings, especially in circumstances where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
All staff should wear face coverings. Teachers could use face shields, which enable students to see their faces and to avoid potential barriers to phonological instruction.
Schools are advised to limit the number of people in all campus spaces to ensure 6 feet of distance between individuals can be maintained.
Schools are to meet high cleanliness standards before reopening and maintain a high level of cleanliness during the school year. Based on CDC guidance, schools should discourage the sharing of electronic devices, toys, books and other games or learning aids.
Districts should have a plan to suspend in-person attendance if necessary, based on public health guidance and in coordination with local public health officials.
Thurmond said the CDE’s guidance was informed by stakeholder input and technical assistance and advice from the CDC, the California Department of Public Health, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and other agencies.
“We know that for many of us, this is the toughest challenge that we’ll ever face, perhaps in our lifetime,” he said. “But when it comes to ensuring that California students continue receiving a high-quality education — and doing so safely — we must rise to meet the challenge.”
The state Department of Public Health released its interim guidance on Friday for schools and school–based programs. In Orange County, a workgroup of school district leaders and representatives from OCDE are also finalizing local recommendations.