California's State Superintendent Tony Thurmond released official guidance on school reopenings Monday as local districts prepare for fall opening dates.

The guidance document, “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools,” will serve as a recommendations road map for schools, as they work with local public health officials and communities to navigate next steps.

"Recognizing that schools will need to open in a COVID-impacted era, we have worked to provide some guidance to our districts on the kinds of things that they should do and could do to accommodate our students being back on campus in a way that keeps them safe," Thurmond said.

Reopenings, he added, will be decided locally by districts.

According to the document, students and staff should wear face masks or face shields throughout the day and maintain at least 6 feet distance. Schools should have a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment, no-touch thermometers, hand sanitizer, soap and handwashing stations available.

Schools should plan to limit people in campus spaces to a number that can be reasonably accommodated while maintaining distance, and attempt to create smaller student/educator cohorts to minimize the mixing of student groups throughout the day.

Four different options for instructional models are outlined in the guidance:

  • Two-Day Rotation Blended Learning Model: Students report to school on two designated days, based on grade level, for in-person instruction. On other days, students are engaged in enrichment opportunities, either on site or with community partners, that are coordinated by school instructional staff. On Fridays, all students would be engaged in distance learning.
  • A/B Week Blended Learning Model: Half the student population attends in-person learning opportunities four full days per week while the other half is engaged in distance learning. Students would alternate each week. One day a week, all students would be engaged in distance learning.

  • Looping Structure: For schools serving grade levels transitional kindergarten through eighth, there's an opportunity for students to stay with the same teacher in cohorts for multiple grade levels.

  • Early/Late Staggered Schedules: Grade level bands would have staggered start and dismissal times, such as AM/PM rotations. Bell schedules would accommodate multiple recesses and lunch periods and multiple meal distribution points, along with time for students to engage in handwashing before entering classrooms.

Schools could also consider serving meals in classrooms, increasing meal service access points and staggering cafeteria use.

The guidance states schools also must consider differing requirements of personal protective equipment for students with disabilities and how to honor physical distancing recommendations while meeting their medical, personal or support needs.

Physical education and intramural/interscholastic athletics should be limited to activities that don't involve physical contact with other students or equipment until advised otherwise by state/local public health officials, according to the guidance. Schools will need to consult public health experts for when sports and extracurricular activities may resume.

School buses have two options: seat one student to a bench on both sides of the bus, skipping every other row, or seat one student to a bench, alternating rows on each side to create a zigzag pattern.

At least daily, schools should disinfect surfaces such as door handles, handrails, drinking fountains, sink handles, restroom surfaces, instructional materials and playground equipment, the document states.

Thurmond said parents should check their child's temperature before sending them to school.

If there's another spike in coronavirus cases this fall, Thurmond said officials and educators would have to "prepare for the likelihood that we could have to return to distance learning."

Locally, 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, Kern County Superintendent of Schools spokesman. 

"School officials are hard at work trying to balance competing priorities," he said. "On one hand, you have to ensure the safety of everyone involved, and on the other hand, you have to ensure that the educational and social-emotional well-being of your students are being met."

Districts have been sending surveys to local stakeholders to find the best ways to reopen.

When schools physically open, Meszaros said distance learning will likely be part of the new normal for some time, schools will likely have fewer students on campus at a time, and face coverings will likely be encouraged but not required, unless physical distancing is impossible.

Other modifications that have been discussed include modifying desk layouts, screening students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms, eliminating large gatherings such as assemblies, ensuring students' belongings are separated and avoiding sharing items, Meszaros said.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

Recommended for you

(7) comments

Moardeeb

I can't wait to see them try to teach social distancing to k8ds.

I agree! Blue sweep! We are taking the Presidency and the Senate!

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Dweeb and Yuckies- both parts of the mutual admiration society. Sane people need not apply...

Masked 2020

Vote Blue in 2020... Tony Thurmond and Gov. Gavin showing us how to survive Trump's pandemic......End the Far Right chaos

Bodysnatcher

You have to rely on someone to show or tell you how to survive? Sad, but it doesn’t surprise me one little bit.

Boris25

This is why so many parents will sent their children to private schools or home school them. These are the same officials who didn't have a problem with protesters being in close proximity with each other and not all of them wearing mask.

Veritas

Talk about clueless. Their file picture with the, ‘we don’t have a clue what we’re doing looks on their faces’ is priceless. What a cluster %&#*. Just when you thought California’s educational system couldn’t get worse, Newsom found a way....

PopTart

What a circle jerk...

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.