The Kern County Superintendent of Schools has provided its own guidance to local school districts planning to safely reopen this fall.
A school reopening task force has been meeting for several weeks, made up of educational partners from districts small and large throughout the county, explained Robert Meszaros, spokesman for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, to establish best practices for schools in the fall.
The guidance isn't a mandate, but serves as a "how to" for local education agencies. All reopening decisions will be made locally by districts.
"LEAs need to work with the Kern County Public Health Department, KCSOS and local stakeholders to ensure that their protocols align with the most current research and community expectations," the document states. "It is also reasonable to expect that the protocols schools implement will change as local conditions change."
Prior to reopening, the KCSOS recommends districts consider acquiring hand-washing stations and/or touchless soap dispensers, touchless trash cans and no-contact thermometers along with necessary cleaning supplies. Sites should also consider having an isolation area within the school or district building if a student or staff member becomes ill. A daily cleaning schedule should be established at all school sites and district offices.
The guidance states staff, faculty members, students and visitors should wear face coverings, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings should be brought from home, but schools and districts should have backup supply for those who can't provide their own.
Districts should engage in symptom screenings as students enter campus and buses, which includes visual wellness checks, temperature checks and COVID-19 symptoms.
Choosing the instructional model that best meets the needs of student populations and families will be key to a robust reopening, the document states. Some possible schedules include alternating weeks when students are on campus Monday through Thursday and distance learning Friday through the following week; holding in-person instruction two days a week and distance learning the remaining three days; or having transitional kindergarten through fifth-grade students on campus daily, while sixth- through eighth-grade students follow a hybrid model.
If parents don't want to send their children to school, distance learning opportunities should be developed.
Inside classrooms, desks should be arranged in a manner that reduces face-to-face contact, the guidance states. Maximum class capacity also will be determined in order to meet 6 feet of physical distancing.
When it comes to students with special needs, districts should consider the differing requirements of personal protective equipment; define how staff can honor distancing recommendations, yet meet student's medical, personal or support needs; and work with each family to determine what appropriate education looks like for them.
The guidance suggests eating outside is the best option, but if seating is unavailable, districts should consider having students eat in classrooms.
Current guidelines establish gatherings of events fall under Stage 4 in the governor’s reopening plans, so districts should pursue virtual group events, gatherings or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing if events are held. Group size should also be limited.
If sporting events are permitted, districts should consider if they can be played without an audience or spectators.
In the event of a second wave of cases, districts should develop a defined plan for closing partial or entire schools again.
Earlier this month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released official guidance on school reopenings.
"Whatever modifications are made will be made with safety in mind and will be vetted by guidance that is already been released by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and in close collaboration with our public health partners," Meszaros said.