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In This Moment (6/11): Guidance on Reopening Schools

June 11, 2020

Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) across California are considering how schools will be structured in the fall given the impacts of COVID-19. With lots of decisions to make, LEAs can now look to guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Education (CDE). Here we provide links to those resources, along with an overview of some of the salient themes they address.

Also, we know that educators are waiting to see the updated version of the state budget. We expect it to be public on Friday, and for the Governor to receive it from the Legislature on Monday. We’ll be sure to provide key updates on education funding news next week.

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Much Anticipated Guidance on School Reopening Released

No one knows precisely what schools will look like when they reopen later this year, but now there’s plenty of guidance to assist Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in making complex decisions about when and how to reopen in a COVID-19 world. Over the last week both the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Education (CDE) released separate guidance documents specific to safely reopening schools.

CDPH Guidance

The CDPH released statewide industry guidance to reduce risk for 28 industries affected by statewide closures, including schools, childcare, public transit, day camps, retail, agriculture, delivery, and many others. As expected, the CDPH school guidance recommends health and safety measures such as handwashing, having students and staff wear cloth face masks, and practicing social distancing in and out of the classroom. In addition, the 10-step document includes guidance and considerations related to cleaning facilities, training staff about proper safety actions, planning for the event of a sick staff member or student, conducting visual wellness checks of all students, taking students’ temperature with a no-touch thermometer, where to safely serve meals, and more.

CDE Guidance

Superintendent Tony Thurmond held a press conference Monday where he released a 55-page document entitled Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools.This guide provides schools with essential questions to consider before opening, recommendations,, and checklists in a variety of areas, including health and safety, instructional programs for special education, Career Technical Education, English Learners, student mental health and well-being for all, and school services like meals and transportation. The guidance, which is not meant to be “one size fits all,” also covers professional relationships and learning, continuity of relationships and learning plans, communication and community engagement, and early learning and care. According to Superintendent Thurmond, the CDE guidance may change as new information becomes available.

The CDE guidebook also notes that statutory changes would be necessary to implement much of the guidance provided. We will be monitoring the situation in Sacramento and keep you posted if legislative changes are made.

State Budget Connection

These outstanding issues that require changes in law or funding are all being discussed and negotiated as part of the state budget that should be public on Friday. The Legislature is expected to approve and send a budget bill to Governor Newsom on Monday, June 15th by midnight.