State superintendent releases guidance for safe reopening of California’s public schools

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the California Department of Education has released comprehensive guidance that will support public school leaders across the state as they work with their local health officers to plan for the safe reopening of campuses and classrooms this fall.

Titled “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safer Opening of California’s Public Schools,” the guidance offers considerations and examples of solutions for schools as they work to implement public health recommendations in an educational environment. The CDE’s guidebook — which was developed using the most current information known at the time and may be updated as new data becomes relevant — covers health and safety practices; instructional programs and models, including for special education and English learners; professional relationships and learning; mental health and well-being for staff and students; community engagement and parental support; early learning and care; and school services such as transportation and meals.

“The effects felt by COVID-19 have been widespread and created impacts unlike anything that we’ve ever seen. As our students return, schools will have to look dramatically different for their own safety and for the opportunity to accelerate learning,” Thurmond said. “We know that guidance is only as good as its implementation, so think of this as the beginning of the conversation—not the end. We know that for many of us, this is the toughest challenge that we’ll ever face, perhaps in our lifetime. But when it comes to ensuring that California students continue receiving a high-quality education — and doing so safely — we must rise to meet the challenge. Californians, I’m inspired by how you have come together to make it this far.”

The CDE guidance is informed by the technical assistance and advice of many health and safety organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, the California Department of Public Health, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and many health officers from counties across the state. The State Superintendent and CDE gathered additional input from focus group conversations with teachers, classified staff, childcare providers, superintendents and public health officials. Important voices were heard during virtual support circles with educators, parents, and students. And additional insight came from consultation with state superintendents, researchers and experts from throughout the nation.

The guidance document recommends face coverings for students and staff at all times (at school or on a bus), physical distancing (at least 6 feet of spacing between seats and in hallways and on buses), and regular symptom screening for students and staff.

The superintendent and CDE recognize that in order to implement the guidance, school leaders will need steady revenue to rely upon for staffing and personal protective equipment and flexibility on instructional minutes. Thurmond is advocating for and has engaged in dialogue with the governor’s office, the department of finance, the legislature and educational stakeholders regarding the resources necessary to reopen safely with physical distancing measures in place.

The guidance document can be found on the CDE Stronger Together web page.

An archived broadcast of the announcement news conference can be found on CDE’s Facebook page.