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Gov. Newsom: Counties on state watch list won't start fall school year in-person

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Posted at 7:25 AM, Jul 17, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that counties can reopen schools for in-person education when the county has been off the state's watch list for 14 consecutive days.

Newsom said schools that don't meet that requirement would have to start the fall school year with distance learning.

Though some of California's schools will make that grade for in-person classes this fall, Newsom outlined when schools may be required to go back to distance learning:

  • Schools should consult public health officer first if a classroom needs to go home because of a positive case
  • A classroom goes to distance learning if there is a confirmed case
  • A school goes to distance learning if multiple classrooms have cases or more than 5% of a school is positive
  • A district goes to distance learning if 25% of a district's schools are closed within two weeks

"Our students, teachers, staff, and certainly parents, we all prefer in-classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons, social and emotional foundationally. But only, only if it can be done safely," Newsom said. "And safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids as we go into the fall and we work our way through this pandemic."

Newsom's announcement comes as the federal government pushes for states to fully reopen schools in the fall -- even as COVID-19 cases surge in most states.

The governor added that the state's guidance to reopen schools would include mask requirements, physical and distance learning requirements, regular testing and dedicated contact tracing, and distance learning measures:

Masks

  • All school staff and students in 3rd grade and higher will be required to wear a facial covering
  • Students in 2nd grade and below will be encouraged to wear facial coverings or shields

Physical distancing

  • Staff must remain 6 feet between each other and with students
  • Symptom checks at the start of the school day
  • Hand-washing stations
  • Sanitation and disinfection protocols
  • Quarantine protocols

Testing and contact tracing

  • Requirement to test a group of staff on a consistent basis
  • State contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools

Distance learning

  • Access to devices and connectivity for kids
  • Daily live interactions with teachers and other students
  • Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes
  • Adapted lessons for English language learners and special education students

Newsom says the state has invested $5.3 billion to address learning loss and equity.

Currently, San Diego County is one of 32 California counties on the state's Monitoring List, which means they don't meet the requirements to reopen for in-person classes.

However, several local school districts have already made their plans for returning to the classroom in some sense in the fall. The San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the state, released a joint statement with the Los Angeles Unified School District saying both districts would start the school year remotely until in-person classes were deemed a low-risk environment for students.

Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest elementary district in the state, said it would follow SDUSD's lead.

RELATED: State and local teachers unions concerned over reopening of schools

Late Thursday, the Escondido Union School District announced instruction would begin Aug 25 via virtual learning.

Poway Unified and San Dieguito Union school districts said they would await more information, but had developed or were developing hybrid learning plans for classes.

The Cajon Valley Union School District in East County reopened Monday for in-person teaching ahead of Friday's announcement. After the state's new guidance, Assistant Superintendent Karen Minshew said the district will consult the county public health department about how to continue its summer enrichment program and adjust to any new guidance.

San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold released a statement following Newsom's announcement, saying the county would review the new order and begin to implement the state's guidance:

"The San Diego County Office of Education will carefully review the new order issued today and work with local public health and our region’s schools to implement the guidance set forth.

Public schools perform a vital role in California; our schools are the foundation of the success of both the next generation and the economy. We recognize that continuing distance learning poses challenges and hardship for many families. Local schools are doing everything they can to craft plans for the 2020-21 school year that have the academic, social, and emotional well-being of students and families at the center. By being thoughtful now, we can find effective solutions that keep our students and staff safe.

Our approach has been to encourage schools to plan for a full spectrum of requirements around symptom screening, physical distancing, facial coverings, and limits on gathering sizes, recognizing that conditions may call for full or partial implementation of these measures based on state guidance. The new order clarifies some of the state-level expectations, which will help schools hone plans for when students do return to campuses."

Earlier this week, state Superintendent Tony Thurmond said he believed some schools in counties where coronavirus infection rates were low may be able to reopen if they follow physical distancing and face covering guidance.

“Everyone shares the desire to reopen schools and agrees that the best place for children to learn and thrive is in the classroom connected with caring teachers and staff. We also understand that schools are more than a place of learning: They provide critical necessities like meals, relationships with caring adults, and support for working parents,” said Thurmond. “But we can only open schools if it is safe to do so. As the largest educational agency in the country, our stance has been consistent during this pandemic: Science, data, and safety must guide any decision about reopening a school. The health and safety of our students and staff is too important to risk.”

California added 9,986 more coronavirus cases Friday, as hospitalizations are up 22% over the last 14 days, according to Newsom. He added that case positivity has decreased slightly to 7.1% over 14 days.