The dilemma: Keeping students safe and healthy while learning
Decisions to open in-person school will be determined by local data
Plan centers on rigorous instruction for students even when schools are physically closed
Schools open for in-person instruction will implement precautions, including a requirement that students in 3rd grade and above wear masks
Schools within Tulare County are required to implement rigorous distance-learning measures and are not permitted to perform in-person instruction this fall. —Tulare County HHSA
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday, July 17, 2020, his plan for learning and safe schools ahead of the 2020-2021 school year, as the California Department of Public Health issued a framework for when and how schools should reopen for in-person instruction.
“Learning is non-negotiable,” said Governor Newsom. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.” School or no school? California
Under this newly released plan, Three Rivers Union School and Woodlake High School will not be able to provide in-person learning due to Tulare County not currently meeting the state’s benchmarks. The 2020-2021 school year is slated to start in less than four weeks. Visalia Unified School District, the largest school district in Tulare County, has announced that VUSD schools will begin the fall semester through full distance learning as per the Governor’s order.
FROM THE TULARE COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY – JULY 18, 2020— Schools within Tulare County are required to implement rigorous distance-learning measures and are not permitted to perform in-person instruction this fall. State officials announced that the distance-learning requirement applies to schools in those counties currently on the statewide County Monitoring List.
Local health epidemiological data, including improvements in COVID-19 case transmission rates, positivity rates, and hospitalizations, will determine when in-person learning will be permitted to return to schools, both public and private. Tulare County must be removed and remain off the County Monitoring List for at least 14 consecutive days in order for schools to reopen.
“The COVID-19 virus continues to spread in Tulare County and poses a significant threat to our health and to the health of children, teachers and school staff,” shared Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Public Health Officer. “We must ensure a safe and healthy learning environment as the virus continues to spread and the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.” School or no school? California
The Governor’s plan centers on five key areas:
1) Safe in-person school based on local health data
The California Department of Public Health today issued updated schools guidance that includes using existing epidemiological metrics to determine if school districts can start in-person instruction. CDPH currently uses six indicators to track the level of COVID-19 infection in each California county as well as the preparedness of the county health care system – data that includes the number of new infections per 100,000 residents, the test positivity rate, and the change in hospitalization rate, among others. Any county that does not meet the state’s benchmarks is put on the County Monitoring List. School or no school? California
Schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. Schools in counties that have not been on the Monitoring List for the prior 14 days may begin in-person instruction, following public health guidelines. School community members – including parents, teachers, staff, and students – can track daily data on whether and why their county is on the Monitoring List.
There is a single exception. Local health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools to reopen in-person instruction if the waiver is requested by the district superintendent, in consultation with labor, parents, and community-based organizations. When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health.School or no school? California
The Department also issued updated guidance for when schools must physically close and revert to distance learning because of COVID-19 infections. Following a confirmed case of a student who was at school during his or her infectious period, other exposed students and staff should be quarantined for 14 days. The school should revert to distance learning when multiple cohorts have cases or 5 percent of students and staff test positive within a 14-day period. An entire district should revert to distance learning when 25 percent or more of its schools have been physically closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days. Closure decisions should be made in consultation with local health officers. After 14 days, school districts may return to in-person instruction with the approval of the local public health officer. School or no school? California
2) Strong mask requirements for anyone in the school
In the updated guidance, all staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear a mask or face covering. Students in second grade and below are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Students should be provided a face covering if they do not have one. The state has delivered over 18 million face coverings to schools to support them to reopen and ensure all students can participate in learning.
3) Physical distancing requirements and health screenings
In the updated guidance, CDPH requires that all adults stay 6 feet from one another and 6 feet away from children, while students should maintain 6 feet of distance from one another as practicable. Anyone entering the school must do a health screen, and any student or staff exhibiting a fever or other symptoms will be immediately sent home. The guidance also provides that if anyone in a student or staff member’s household is sick, they too should stay home.
4) Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing for outbreaks at schools
The public health guidance recommends staff in every California school be tested for COVID-19 periodically based on local disease trends and as testing capacity allows. The Governor also announced today that the state will provide resources and technical assistance for COVID-19 investigations in school settings.
5) Rigorous distance learning
Over the course of the pandemic, most schools will likely face physical closure at some point due to COVID-19. The Legislature and Governor Newsom enacted a budget that provided $5.3 billion in additional funding to support learning and set requirements to ensure schools provide rigorous and grade-appropriate instruction. School or no school? California
Under newly enacted state law, school districts are required to provide:
—Devices and connectivity so that every child can participate in distance learning.
—Daily live interaction for every child with teachers and other students.
—Class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction.
—Targeted supports and interventions for English learners and special education students.
The full guidance for schools from the California Department of Public Health can be found here.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Tulare County and get our students back to the classroom, officials strongly urge everyone to practice both social and physical distancing of six feet or more between persons. Residents must always wear a face mask or covering while in environments where physical distancing is not possible and while in public settings. More importantly, residents should not participate in social gatherings of any kind, as a large number of the COVID-19 cases in Tulare County stem from exposure through gatherings that occurred beyond a single household. —Tulare County HHSA