In a press conference today, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new mandate that all public and private schools in counties still on the state’s monitoring list for coronavirus (inlcuding Los Angeles County) must open for the fall term with distance learning only.
While Newsom said that, as a father of four young children, he believes “profoundly” in students being physically engaged with others as part of their learning process, and that it is difficult to maintain that kind of engagement online, he also said that right now we must “lean in from a health and data perspective,” and that “learning remains non-negitioable, but so does safety.”
According to the new order, a county must be off the monitoring list for two consecutive weeks before its schools may re-open for in-person instruction. And when that happens, schools and districts must also create and maintain strict protocols for health and safety, in five major categories (see graphic). The protocols will include masks required for all students in grades 3-13, and either masks or face shields recommended for students in second grade or younger. Six feet of social distancing will also be requred between all staff members, and also between staff and students…and hand washing, symptom checks and rules for sanitizing and disinfecting classrooms will also have to be in place.
In the announcement Newsom also acknowledged the challenges of serving all populations equally with online learning, and said the state is making $5.3 billion available to schools to help prioritize equity in learning. The money can be used for the purchase of personal protective equipment, digital devices and connectivity, and other necessities to help equalize educational access, services and opportunity across the state.
In addition, Newsom noted that there will also be guidelines in place for how schools and districts should handle infections when they do occur after schools re-open…and what the rules will be for shutting down either individual schools or whole distrcts if infections spread.
Finally, Newsom urged that the single most important thing people can do to help stop the pandemic, and to get our schools back on track is to wear a face covering (“the single most effective non-pharmaceutical intervention” we have). Also, he said, it’s important to wash hands frequently, matain social distancing, and avoid large gatherings. In other words, he said, “Model the behavior that can actually extinguish this virus.”
Update on 7/20: Prior to Newsom’s statewide announcement, LAUSD had already announced it would resume with online instruction in August…and on Saturday, July 18, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced that its schools in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties woud follow suit.