California officials releases guidelines on safely reopening schools

Posted at 9:46 AM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 20:50:07-04

(KGTV) -- The California Department of Education on Monday released guidance for the safe reopening of all state schools.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and other CDE leaders unveiled a guidance document that will serve as a road map of recommendations for schools as they work with local public health officials on steps to reopen.

All schools in the state closed in March due to stay-at-home orders protecting against the spread of COVID-19. Reopening dates have not yet been set.

The document addresses topics such as face coverings, physical distancing, symptom screenings and distance learning.

Some of the suggestions include:

  • Students should use cloth face coverings, especially in circumstances when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings should be worn while waiting to enter the school campus; while on school grounds (except when eating or drinking); while leaving school; while on a school bus.
  • In classrooms, desks are to be a minimum of 6 feet apart and desks should be arranged in a way that minimizes face-to-face contact.
  • 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.

The CDE also laid out suggested scheduling models, including:

  • Two-day rotation: Students report to school on two designated days based on grade level for in-person instruction.
  • Alternate week rotation: Half of the student population attends in-person learning opportunities four full days per week while the other half is engaged in distance learning opportunities.
  • Looping structure: Students and teachers will remain together for multiple grade levels (TK-8).
  • Staggered scheduling: Start and dismissal times would be staggered based on grade level.

Click here to view the department's full guidelines

Thurmond said, “We have to prepare for the likelihood that we will have to return to distance learning.”

Jean Marie Arce, whose son will be a sophomore at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, told 10News she is concerned for working and single parents when it comes to dealing with in-class learning versus distance learning for their children.

“It’s so much easier for him just to be in school than trying to do the online thing,” Arce said.

Arce also had concerns on how physical distancing would work once students are allowed to return to campus.

“These classrooms are 20-plus kids. How are you going to get these classrooms to fill 20-plus kids at a six-food distance?” Arce wondered.

Each school district will be responsible for how to reopen schools, and state officials hope the guidelines will help districts determine their own approach to reopening.

“Right now is a critical time for school districts to really begin to analyze their campus, footprints of their campus, and to make determinations about how many students can be safely taught in an in-campus and in-class instruction way,” Thurmond said.

“A lot of planning is going to have to take place in order for this to happen, and I think if they’re going to do this, they need to start now if they want to open up in the fall,” Arce said.