OCDE, district leaders form task force to develop guidance on reopening OC campuses

A workgroup of local school district leaders and representatives from OCDE is in the process of developing planning assumptions and recommendations for reopening campuses closed to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supported by the county Health Care Agency, CHOC and UCI, the Orange County Task Force for Reopening of Schools includes administrators who oversee business services, educational services, health, and human resources divisions throughout Orange County.

OCDE signGroup members have been participating in videoconferencing sessions since April 17 with the goal of drafting recommendations on a number of fronts, including in-person instruction, transportation, special education, child care and nutrition. Ultimately, each district will determine its own plans under the leadership of their locally elected school boards and superintendents.

OCDE Associate Superintendent of Business Services Dean West, who serves as a task force co-chair, said there are a number of key questions that must be addressed before schools can bring students back safely. For example, will there be enough funding and classroom space to reduce class sizes, will students and staff need to wear masks, and what are some of the contractual issues related to modified workplaces or schedules?

“Ensuring the health and safety of students and staff is the top priority, and every recommendation will be driven by that commitment,” West said.

“Schools in California and across the country are faced with a high volume of complex considerations, assumptions and unknowns right now, and we continue to collect new information daily from public health authorities,” he said. “Our intent is not to supersede local decision-making, but we do hope to pool our resources and align our efforts in Orange County based on data-informed principles.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom has outlined six indicators that will serve as the basis for reopening California, including the ability to monitor communities through testing, the ability of health systems to handle surges, and the ability of schools and child care facilities to support physical distancing.

More recently, Newsom said the state was gradually transitioning to the second of four phases that have been laid out as a roadmap to economic recovery, with lower-risk businesses expected to reopen this week. Schools and child care facilities are also included in phase two.