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California Releases Guidelines for Schools

This afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom released the State of California’s guidance and guidelines for private and public schools in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also announced that the State is investing $5.3 billion in additional funding to help school districts with learning equity.

California’s pandemic plan for schools is:

  1. Safe in-person school bases on local health data
  2. Mask requirements
  3. Physical distancing and other adaptations
  4. Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing
  5. Rigorous distance learning

The State’s guidelines are not too different from Santa Clara County’s guidelines for schools that it released on June 30. However, there are some key differences that will cause local Districts to have to change up their reopening plans that have already been in development.


For example, the State’s guidelines require students in 3rd grade and above wear face coverings in schools while students in 2nd grade and under are strongly encouraged. In contrast, the County’s guidelines said that face masks were not required for elementary school students, but strongly encouraged. Districts must use the strictest restrictions, which in this case, is the State’s.

Some other key changes parents will see compared to last school year’s distance learning is going to be daily live interaction with teachers.

Many local Districts in Santa Clara County have already decided to begin the 2020-2021 school year in distance learning — including Santa Clara Unified School District — but now they must. According to today’s announcement, counites that are on the State’s County Monitoring List must begin the school year in distance learning — Santa Clara County is currently on the list. Counties may reopen their schools for in-person instruction if they haven’t been on the County Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days.

The Governor emphasized that safety is determined by local health orders. He also said that he recognized that in-person learning is the default and preferred, but not possible in many areas of the State as over 30 counties are currently on the County Monitoring List.

If and when schools can open, Newsom also described the State’s guidelines for closing schools and even whole districts if COVID-19 cases and exposure occur. The guidelines describe that, for example, a whole classroom cohort must go home if there is a confirmed case and a whole school must go home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5 percent of the school is positive. A whole district must go home if 25 percent of their schools are closed within a 14-day period.

Speaking of getting sick, the State now requires that staff get regularly tested for COVID-19. Additionally, the State is offering up their contact tracers to prioritize tracing COVID-19 exposures at schools.

Read the full guidance on the State’s website as well as additional framework here. Newsom said that guidance for universities is in the works.


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