The California Department of Education (CDE) today released new guidelines for the safe reopening of the state’s public school campuses. The guidelines contain recommendations regarding a variety of measures to protect the safety of students and school employees. This includes advice on social distancing, temperature checks, contact tracing, hand washing, the use of face coverings and more. The CDE guidance, titled “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safer Opening of California’s Public Schools,” can be viewed at this link.
CDE notes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for all schools. Local school districts will have the discretion to develop plans that best serve the unique needs of their communities. All schools – public and private – will need to operate in accordance with state and local public health regulations.
The Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE) is working closely with the leaders of all twenty local school districts to develop protocols for the safe reopening of school campuses for the 2020-2021 school year. VCOE has created a COVID-19 Re-entry Task Force that includes leaders in education and public health that is providing guidance and support at the local level. Currently, most Ventura County districts are planning to reopen their campuses in mid to late August according to their regular calendars. Many will continue offering distance learning as an option for families who prefer it.
“We know there is tremendous desire among students and parents for normal school operations to resume,” said Stan Mantooth, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools. “Nothing can duplicate the face-to-face learning and social interaction that takes place at our schools. We are committed to restoring those opportunities as quickly as possible while making safety a top priority.”
In addition to protecting students’ physical health, Ventura County educators are preparing to provide for their social and emotional needs. Students who will return to class this fall have been impacted, not only by the coronavirus crisis, but also by the growing awareness of racial injustice that followed the death of George Floyd. “Public schools have a critical role to play in helping young people make sense of events that are reshaping their lives and our world in real time,” Superintendent Mantooth said.
As districts begin to announce details on plans for the new school year, it’s important to remember they are subject to change. An increase in the severity of the pandemic or progress in developing treatments for COVID-19 could alter efforts to get schools back to normal for better or for worse.
When students do start returning to school, parents can help ensure everyone’s safety by encouraging good hygiene practices at home and by keeping kids home when they are sick. Additional information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in children is available from the CDC in English and Spanish at this link.